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M.A. Oxon., Hon. LL.D. Edin. 







Vol. V 

Oct. 1811 -Aug. 81, 1812 










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IN this volume Wellington's campaigning in 1812 is 
followed no further than the day (August 31st) on 
which he set out from Madrid to drive back Clausel 
from the Douro. Reasons of space make it impossible to 
include the siege of Burgos and the retreat which followed. 
I had written the narrative of them, but found it impos- 
sible to add six long chapters to the 620 pages already 
in print. The fact is that, from the point of view of 
Wellington's army, the year 1812 was much more 
tightly packed with military events than any which 
had gone before. In 1809 there was nothing important 
to chronicle after August : in 1810 the Anglo-Portuguese 
did not come into the forefront of the war till July, 
when Massena had crossed the frontier and laid siege to 
Almeida. In 1811 the year opened with a deadlock, 
which was only ended by the commencement of Mas- 
sena's retreat on March 9th, and concluded with a 
similar deadlock which endured from July to December 
— interrupted only by the short campaign of El Bodon 
and Aldea da Ponte, and this covered only a week 
[Sept. 22-9]. In 1812 the great strategical operations 
began on the first day of the year with the concentration 
for the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo, and did not end till 
the last week of November — which saw Wellington once 
more encamped under the walls of that fortress. For 
eleven months on end he had been on the move, with only 


a brief rest in cantonments between April 24th, the day 
when he gave up his pursuit of Marmont in Northern 
Portugal, and the end of May, when his divisions began 
to assemble again for the projected march on Salamanca. 
But for this short break his operations were continuous, 
and the narrative of them must of necessity be 

The campaign of 1812 cannot be called the greatest 
exhibition of military genius in Wellington's career : 
that distinction must be given to the campaign of 1813. 
But it included the battle of Salamanca, the most skil- 
fully fought and the most decisive of all his victories, 
4 the beating of forty thousand men in forty minutes.' 
And its earlier episodes, the two sudden strokes which 
ended in the storming of Ciudad Uodrigo and of Badajoz, 
deserve the closest attention, as showing a marvellous 
power of utilizing opportunities, and solving time- 
problems of the most complicated sort. We shall see 
how Wellington, in face of an enemy whose whole force 
was far superior to his own, so conducted his operations 
that he had success in his hands before the French 
armies could concentrate to overwhelm him. He would 
have been victorious in 1812 even without the assistance 
that was given him during the early months of the year 
by Napoleon's misguided orders from Paris, and in the 
summer by Soult's repeated and deliberate refusal to 
co-operate with King Joseph and Marmont for the 
general welfare of the French cause in Spain. The limits 
of his success were largely extended by those adven- 
titious circumstances, but even without them he must 
have achieved great things by force of the combinations 
which he had prepared. 


The reader will find that I have devoted a good deal of 
space to the precise working out of the effect of Napoleon's 
successive dispatches to Marmont, with reference to the 
time at which each was received, and the influence 
which it had on the Marshal's movements. I am bound 
to say that careful study has convinced me that Mar- 
mont's justification of his own actions from January to 
May, written in the fourth volume of his Memoires, 
is in the main fair and sensible, and that his criti- 
cism of his master's orders is as sound as it is lucid. 
Napier held the reverse opinion, but his arguments 
in support of it are unconvincing : he is set on proving 
his idol infallible at all costs, in this as in so many other 

I find myself equally at variance with Napier's esti- 
mate of the relative share of responsibility that falls on 
Soult upon the one side and King Joseph and Jourdan 
on the other, for the disasters of the summer of 1812. 
Jourdan's plan of campaign, set out in his ' May Memoire ' 
[see pp. 303-11], is a most clear-headed and practicable 
scheme ; the adoption of it would have reduced the 
effect of Wellington's strategy, and have set a limit to his 
successes. Soult wrecked the whole scheme by wilful 
disobedience, which sinned as much against military 
discipline as against common sense. The counter-pro- 
jects which he kept sending to Jourdan and the King 
were founded on his own personal desires, not on a 
consideration of the general situation in the Peninsula. 
Soult had been kind and courteous to Napier while the 
historian was working at the French archives, and had 
placed his own private papers at his disposition. I think 
that the obligation was repaid by the mildness of the 


censures passed on the Marshal's strange behaviour in 

the summer of 1812. 

A smaller proportion of the pages of this volume than 
of its predecessors is occupied by the tale of those cam- 
paigns in the Peninsula in which the British took no 
part. The year 1812 commences with the surrender of 
Blake and the occupation of Valencia by the French. 
When that great city and the army that had been driven 
into it succumbed before Suchet's attack, there was no 
longer any large Spanish force in the field, and the 
operations of Lacy, Ballasteros, and the Galicians are 
of only secondary importance and require no great 
attention. Indeed the most effective service done 
against the French in 1812 was that of the guerrilleros 
of Aragon, Cantabria, and Navarre, whose obstinate 
resistance immobilized such a large portion of the 
230,000 imperial troops that lay in Spain. It will be 
noted that I have had to devote a considerable number 
of pages to a much-neglected episode of the summer of 
1812 — the campaigns against Caffarelli of the irregular 
bands of the North, assisted by the fleet of Sir 
Home Popham. It cannot be too often repeated 
that by immobilizing the 35,000 men of the French 
Army of the North, they co-operated in the most 
effective way with Wellington, and had their share 
in making the Salamanca campaign a success for the 

I trust that I may have succeeded in making the 
topographical details clear at Ciudad Rodrigo, Badajoz, 
and more especially Salamanca, all of which I have 
visited. I spent many hours going over the ground at 
the Arapiles, and found that no mere map could have 


enabled one to grasp the situation in a satisfactory 

I have once more to express my indebtedness to the 
owners of two great files of Peninsular War documents, 
who were good enough to place them at my disposition 
and to allow me to bring them to Oxford. The D 'Urban 
papers, lent to me by Mr. W. S. M. D'Urban, of Newport 
House, near Exeter, the grandson of Sir Benjamin 
D'Urban, Beresford's Chief-of-the-Staff, continue to be 
of immense value all through 1812. In the first half of 
the year Sir Benjamin was still at the Portuguese head- 
quarters, and his diary and correspondence give the 
views of those who had the best opportunity of knowing 
Wellington's plans from the inside. In June he was 
appointed to another post, that of commanding the 
detached Portuguese cavalry brigade which covered 
Wellington's left flank in the Salamanca campaign ; 
his notes as to his operations are of extreme interest 
throughout June, July, and August ; the narratives 
which he drew up concerning his own fortunes at the 
battle of Salamanca, and at the unfortunate combat of 
Majalahonda, have cleared up several obscure problems, 
which no published material could have enabled me to 

The papers of Sir George Scovell, lent me by his 
great-nephew, Mr. G. Scovell, of Hove, had already 
begun to be of use to me in the chronicle of 1811. But 
in 1812 they are of far greater importance, since it was 
early in that year that Scovell was placed by Wellington 
in charge of the toilsome duty of studying and decoding 
all French captured dispatches written in cipher. The 
originals were left in his hands, and only the interpre- 


tations, written out in full, were made over to the 
Commander-in-Chief. These originals, often scraps of 
the smallest dimensions made to be concealed in 
secret places about the person of the bearer, are 
historical antiquities of the highest interest. Their 
importance is so great that I have thought it neces- 
sary to give in Appendix XV a detailed account of 
them, of the characteristics of the ' Great Paris Cipher ' 
— as Scovell called it — and of the contents of each 

I must mention, as in previous volumes, much kind 
help given to me from abroad. The authorities of 
the Paris War Office have continued to facilitate my 
researches among their bulky cartons. I have to notice 
with sincere regret the death of my old friend, M. Mar- 
tinien, who did so much for me while I was compiling 
volumes III and IV of this work. I much missed his 
guidance while working over the material of 1812 during 
the last two autumns. Colonel Juan Arzadun, of the 
Madrid Artillery Museum, has continued to send me 
occasional information, and I am specially obliged to 
Don Rafael Farias for procuring for me, and making 
me a present of, that very rare document the 1822 
c Estados de los ejercitos espanoles durante la guerra 
contra Bonaparte,' a collection of morning- states and 
tables of organization on which I had in vain tried to 
lay hands during three successive visits to Madrid. 
Another gift of the highest value was the complete set 
of Beresford's Ordens do Dia for the Portuguese army, 
ranging over the whole war. This most useful series 
was presented to me by my friend Mr. Rafael 
Reynolds, the companion of my last Portuguese tour, 


who found a copy of this almost unprocurable file at 
Lisbon. I owe the two views of the field of Salamanca 
to the camera of Mr. C. J. Armstrong, who sent them 
to me along with many other interesting Peninsular 

Three friends in England have continued to give me 
help of the most invaluable kind. Mr. C. T. Atkinson, 
Fellow of Exeter College, has looked through the whole 
of my proofs, and furnished me with innumerable notes, 
which enabled me to add to the accuracy of my narra- 
tive. He has also written me an appendix, No. XIV, 
concerning the English troops which in 1812 operated on 
the East coast of Spain — and the others which formed the 
garrisons of Gibraltar, Cadiz, and Tarif a. The Hon. John 
Fortescue, the historian of the British army, has not 
only answered at length my queries on many obscure 
problems, but has lent me the file of his transcripts of 
French dispatches for 1812, a good many of which, 
and those of high importance, were unknown to me. 
They were especially valuable for Soult's operations. 
Our narratives of the campaigns of 1812 will appear 
almost simultaneously, and I think it will be found that 
all our main opinions are in agreement. Major J. H. 
Leslie, R.A., has once more contributed to this volume 
an ' Artillery Appendix ' on the same lines as those for 
1810 and 1811 in vols. Ill and IV. His researches have 
always proved exhaustive and invaluable for the history 
of his old Corps. 

Lastly, the compiler of the Index, a task executed 
this summer under very trying conditions, must receive, 
for the fifth time, my heartfelt thanks for her labour 
of love. 


As in previous volumes, the critic may find some 
slight discrepancies between the figures given with 
regard to strengths of regiments or losses in action in 
the text and in the Appendices. This results from the 
fact that many official documents contain incorrect 
arithmetic, which was only discovered by the inde- 
fatigable proof-readers of the Clarendon Press, who 
have tested all the figures, and found not infrequent 
(if minute) errors. The text was printed off before 
the Appendices were finally dealt with : where the 
numbers differ those in the Appendices are, of course, 
to be preferred. But the worst discrepancies do not get 
beyond units and tens. 


Oxford : 

July 27, 1914. 

Note. — When every page of the text, appendices, and 
index of this volume has been printed off, and the final 
proofs of the preface are passing through my hands, comes 
the news that Great Britain is most unexpectedly involved 
in a war to which there can be no parallel named save the 
struggle that ended just a hundred years ago. May her 
strength be used as effectively against military despotism 
in the twentieth as it was in the nineteenth century. 

Aug. 5, 1914. 



Suchet's Conquest of Valencia, September 1811-January 1812 

chapter page 

I. The Invasion of Valencia. Siege of Saguntum. Sep- 
tember-October 1811. .... 

II. The Battle of Saguntum. October 25, 1811 

III. The Capture of Valencia and of Blake's Army. Novem 

ber 1811-January 1812 .... 

IV. Suchet's Conquest of Valencia : Side-issues and Conse 

quences. January-March 1812 . 





Minor Campaigns of the Winter of 1811-12 
I. Catalonia and Aragon ...... 90 

II. Operations of Soult in Andalusia : the Siege of Tarifa, 

December 1811-January 1812 106 

III. Politics at Cadiz and elsewhere . . . . .136 

Wellington's First Campaign of 1812. January-April 

I. The Capture of Ciudad Rodrigo. January 8th-19th, 

1812 157 

II. The Consequences of the Fall of Ciudad Rodrigo. 

January-March 1812 187 

III. The Siege of Badajoz. March- April 1812 . . .217 

IV. The Storm of Badajoz. April 6, 1812 . . .244 

V. Operations of Soult and Marmont during the Siege of 

Badajoz. March-April 1812 .... 265 



The Salamanca Campaign. May-August 1812 
chapter page 

I. King Joseph as Commander-in-Chief .... 297 
II. The Bridge of Almaraz. May 19, 1812 . . .315 

III. Wellington's Advance into Leon. June 13-19, 1812 . 335 

IV. The Salamanca Forts. Ten Days of Manoeuvres, June 20- 

30, 1812 359 

V. Marmont takes the Offensive. July 1812 . . . 383 

VI. TheBattle of Salamanca, July 22, 1812. The Early Stages 418 

VII. The Battle of Salamanca : the Main Engagement . 446 

VIII. The Consequences of Salamanca. Garcia Hernandez . 475 

IX. The Pursuit of King Joseph. Majalahonda. Wellington 

at Madrid 504 

X. Affairs in the South. June-August 1812. Soult, Hill, 

and Ballasteros . . . . . . .519 

XI. The Two Diversions : (1) Operations in the North : Sir 
Home Popham and Caffarelli. (2) Operations in 
the East : Suchet, Joseph O'Donnell, and Maitland. 

June-August 1812 548 

XII. Wellington Returns to the Douro. August 31, 1812. 

Finis 576 


I. Suchet' s Army in Valencia. Morning- state of Oct. 1, 

1811 583 

II. Strength of Blake's Army at the Battle of Saguntum, 

Oct. 25, 1811 584 

III. Suchet's Army at the Siege of Valencia. Morning-state 

of Dec. 31, 1811 585 

IV. Surrender-Roll of Blake's Army at Valencia, Jan. 9, 

1812 586 

V. French and Anglo-Spanish Troops employed at the Siege 

of Tarifa, Dec. 1811-Jan. 1812 . . . .586 

VI. Siege of Ciudad Rodrigo : (1) Strength of the Garrison ; 

(2) British Losses during the Siege . . . 587 

VII. Note on some Points of Controversy regarding the 

Storm of Ciudad Rodrigo ..... 589 
VIII. The French ' Army of the South.' Return of March 1, 

1812 590 


Xll 1 


IX. Siege of Badajoz : (1) Strength of the Garrison ; (2) 

British Losses at the Storm .... 

X. Wellington's Army at Salamanca. Strength and Losses 

XI. Marmont's Army at Salamanca. Strength and Losses . 

XII. British Losses at the Combats of Castrejon and Castrillo, 

July 18, 1812 

XIII. Spanish Troops on the East Coast of Spain in the Spring of 
1812 : (1) Morning- state of March 1 ; (2) Joseph 
O'Donnell's Strength and Losses at Castalla . 
XIV. British Forces on the East Coast of Spain in 1812. A note 
by Mr. C. T. Atkinson 

XV. The Scovell Ciphers 

XVI. The British Artillery in the Peninsula, 1812. By Major 
John Leslie, R.A. ...... 









I. General Theatre of Suchet's Operations 
in Eastern Spain .... 
II. Plan of the Battle of Saguntum . 

III. Plan of Suchet's Investment of Valencia 

IV. General Map of Catalonia . 

V. Plan of Tarifa 

VI. Plan of the Siege Operations at Ciudad 

Rodrigo ... . 

VII. Plan of the Siege Operations at Badajoz 

VIII. Map of the District round Almaraz 

IX. General Map of Central Spain, to illustrate 

the Salamanca Campaign 
X. Plan of the Salamanca Forts 
XI. Map of the Country between Salamanc 


XII. General Plan of the Battle of Salamanca 
XIII. (1) The Last Episode at Salamanca 

(2) Garcia Hernandez 
XIV. General Map of Estremadura to illustrate 

Hill's Campaigns in March- April and 

June- August 1812 . 

face 8 




























Portrait of Marshal Soult . . . Frontispiece 

Portrait of Marshal Suchet .... To face 80 

View of Ciudad Rodrigo, on the Morning after 

the Storm ........ 18G 

Portrait of Marshal Marmont . . . „ 208 

(1) View of the French Arapile, and (2) view of 

the General Lie of the Ground at Salamanca ,, 422 





In the last volume of this work the chronicle of all the cam- 
paigns of 1811 was completed, save in one corner of Spain, 
where, on the eastern coast, the fortunes of the French armies 
have only been pursued down to the recall of Marshal Mac- 
donald to Paris on October 28th. Already, before the Duke of 
Tarentum had been added to the list of the generals who had 
been withdrawn and superseded for failure in Catalonia, another 
series of operations had been begun in the East, which was 
destined to lead directly to one more Spanish disaster, but 
indirectly to the ruin of the French cause in Spain. For, as has 
already been pointed out in the last pages of the last volume \ 
it was to be the diversion by Napoleon's orders of French 
divisions eastward, from the borders of Portugal to those of 
Valencia, that was to give Wellington his long-desired oppor- 
tunity of opening a successful offensive campaign against his 
immediate opponents in the West. The fall of Valencia was to 
lead to the fall of Ciudad Rodrigo in January 1812. 

It will be remembered that the Emperor's ambitious schemes 
for the conquest of the kingdom of Valencia, the last district 
of eastern Spain where he had as yet secured no solid foothold, 
had been deferred perforce till Figueras fell, on August 19, 1811. 
As long as that great fortress, which lies only a few miles from 
the French frontier, and blocks the main road from Perpignan 
to Barcelona, had been maintained against Macdonald by the 

vol. iv. pp. 587-91, 




resolute Martinez, it was impossible to take up a new offensive 
campaign : all the disposable French troops in Catalonia were 
immobilized around the stubborn garrison. At length the 
remnant of the starving miqueletes had laid down their arms, 
and the troops which had been for so long blockading them 
became disposable for the assistance of Suchet, whose ' Army 
of Aragon ' was to deliver the main blow against Valencia. 

Six days after the surrender of Figueras the news that the 
obstacle to advance had been at last removed reached Paris, on 
August 25, and on the same evening Berthier wrote, by his 
master's orders, to bid Suchet move forward : ' Everything leads 
us to believe that Valencia is in a state of panic, and that, when 
Murviedro has been taken and a battle in the open field has 
been won, that city will surrender. If you judge otherwise, 
and think that you must wait to bring up your siege artillery 
for the attack on the place, or that you must wait for a better 
season [i. e. early autumn] to commence the operation, I must 
inform you that, in every case, it is the imperative order of the 
Emperor that your head- quarters are to be on Valencian 
territory on or about September 15th, and as far forward towards 
the city as possible.' 

The orders were feasible, and (as we shall see) were duly 
executed : but Napoleon had committed his usual mistake of 
undervaluing the tenacity of the Spanish enemy, whom he so 
deeply despised. Suchet set his troops in motion on Septem- 
ber 15th ; he took Murviedro — but only after a desperate siege 
of two months — he beat the army of Valencia in a very decisive 
pitched battle, but the city by no means fulfilled the Emperor's 
prophecy by a prompt surrender. Fighting round its walls 
went on for five weeks after Murviedro fell : and it was not till 
troops had been brought to aid Suchet from very remote 
provinces, that he at last compelled the capitulation of Valencia 
after the New Year of 1812 had passed. Before the city yielded 
Wellington was on the move, far away on the Portuguese 
frontier, and it was not many days after Suchet's aide-de-camp 
brought the glorious news of the capitulation of Valencia, that 
Marmont's aide-de-camp followed, with the wholly unexpected 
and unwelcome tidings that the British had stormed Ciudad 
Rodrigo, and that the hold of the French army on Leon and 


Castile had been shaken. The one piece of information was the 
complement and consequence of the other. 

Suchet's invasion of Valencia, in short, was a much harder 
and more venturesome enterprise than his master had calculated. 
It was true that the Spanish forces in front of him seemed in 
September wholly incapable of holding him back. The Army 
of Catalonia had been reduced by a series of disasters, cul- 
minating in the falls of Tarragona and Figueras, to a mere 
remnant of 8,000 men, lurking in the high hills of the interior. 
The Army of Valencia had made a miserable exhibition of itself 
during the last year : it had brought no effective help to the 
Catalans, and whenever any of its detachments came into 
contact with the French, they had invariably suffered dis- 
creditable defeats, even when their numbers were far greater 
than those of the invaders. Of all the armies of Spain this was 
undoubtedly the one with the worst fighting reputation. It 
was to small profit that the Captain-General was raising yet 
newer and rawer battalions than those which already existed, 
to swell the numbers, but not the efficiency, of his command. 
In July the nominal total of the Valencian army, including the 
irregulars of the ' flying column ' of the Empecinado, had been 
just 30,000 men. By October there were 36,000 under arms, 
including the new 4 Reserve Division ,' whose six battalions of 
recruits had only 135 officers to 6,000 men — an allowance of 
one officer to 45 men, not much more than half of the proportion 
that is necessary even among good veteran troops. But in 
truth the only valuable fighting force that was present in the 
kingdom in September was the infantry of the two weak 
divisions of the old Albuera army, under Zayas and Lardizabal, 
whom Blake had brought round from Cadiz with him, when he 
assumed command of the Eastern provinces. They did not 
between them muster more than 6,000 bayonets, but were good 
old troops, who were to distinguish themselves in the oncoming 

In addition, it was possible that Valencia might be able to 

' The Reserve Division' consisted of a 3rd battalion from some of the old 
regiments of the Valencian army, viz. 1st of Savoya, Avila, Don Carlos, 
Volunteers of Castile, Cazadores de Valencia, Orihuela. They were each 
about 1,000 strong, but averaged only 22 officers per battalion. 

B 2 


draw a few thousand men to her aid from the depleted army 
of Murcia, which had suffered so severely at Soult's hands 
during the short campaign of the previous August \ But such 
assistance was purely problematical ; if Soult should stir again 
from the side of Andalusia, it would be impossible for General 
Mahy to bring a single Murcian battalion to the succour of 
Blake. If, by good fortune, he should not, only a fraction of 
Mahy's small army would be free, since the greater part of it 
would be required to watch the Andalusian frontier, and to 
protect the great naval arsenal and fortress of Cartagena. 

If the regular troops only in eastern Spain had to be counted, 
it was certain that Suchet could dispose of numbers superior 
to his adversaries. The gross total of the French Army of 
Catalonia, where General Decaen had now taken Macdonald's 
place, was 30,000 men. That of Suchet's own ' Army of Aragon ' 
was nearly 50,000, if garrisons, sick, and drafts on the march are 
reckoned in it. With these deducted, it could still supply about 
31,000 men of all arms for the field. But these were not the 
only resources available. On the upper Ebro, in Navarre and 
western Aragon, were the two newly arrived divisions of Reille 
and Severoli, which had entered Spain during the summer, and 
had hitherto had no occupation save a little hunting of Mina's 
guerrilleros. These two divisions counted 15,000 fresh troops of 
good quality, and Suchet reckoned on their assistance to cover 
his rear, when he should begin his march on Valencia. Techni- 
cally they belonged to Dorsenne's ' Army of the North,' but 
Severoli's Italians had been promised as a reinforcement for 
Aragon already, and when Suchet asked for the grant of 
Reille's division also it was not denied him. There were 70,000 
men in all to be taken into consideration when the attack on 
Valencia was planned out. 

No such force, of course, could be set aside for the actual 
invasion. The reason why not half so many thousands could 
be utilized for the projected stroke was that the Spanish War, 
as we have already had to point out on many occasions, was 
not a normal struggle between regular armies. The French had 
not only to conquer but to occupy every province that they 
overrun. Wherever an adequate garrison was not left, the 
1 See vol. iv. pp. 475-83 


guerrilleros and miqueletes inundated the country-side, cut all 
communications, and blockaded such small detachments as had 
been left far apart from the main army. Suchet's 70,000 men 
had to hold down Aragon and Catalonia, at the same time that 
they undertook the further extension of their master's power 
on the Valencian side. 

Decaen in Catalonia had 23,000 men fit for service, not 
including sick and drafts on the march. Lacy's little army was 
not more than 8,000 strong in September : yet Suchet dared 
not take away a man from Catalonia. The large garrison of 
Barcelona, a whole division, and the smaller garrisons of Gerona, 
Rosas, and Mont Louis absorbed nearly half the effective total. 
The remainder were, as it turned out, not strong enough to 
keep the Catalans in check, much less to prosecute active 
offensive operations against them. It was in October, after 
Suchet had started against Valencia, that Lacy carried out the 
series of small successful raids against Igualada, Cervera, and 
Montserrat, which have been spoken of in an earlier chapter \ 
We need not wonder, then, that not a Frenchman was drawn 
from Catalonia : they were all wanted on the spot to keep 
a tight hold on the turbulent principality. The example of the 
surprise of Figueras in the last spring was sufficient to prove 
the necessity of keeping every point strongly garrisoned, on 
pain of possible disaster. 

As to the Army of Aragon, it was far stronger than the Army 
of Catalonia, but on the other hand it had even more fortresses 
to garrison. Saragossa, Tortosa, Tarragona, Lerida, were 
large places, each absorbing several battalions. In addition 
there were the smaller strongholds of Jaca, Mequinenza, Mon- 
zon, Morella, requiring care. All these were regular fortresses, 
but they did not exhaust the list of points that must be firmly 
held, if the communications of Suchet's field-force with its 
distant base were to be kept free and unhampered. Southern 
Aragon and the mountain-ganglion where the borders of that 
kingdom and of Valencia and New Castile meet, in the roughest 
country of the whole Spanish peninsula, had to be guarded. For 
in this region lay the chosen hunting-ground of the guerrillero 
bands of the Empecinado, Duran, and many other lesser chiefs : 
1 See vol. iv. pp. 540-1. 


and Mina himself, from his usual haunts in Navarre, not unfre- 
quently led a raid far to the south of the Ebro. Suchet had 
therefore to place garrisons in Teruel, Daroca, Alcaniz, Cala- 
tayud, and Molina, none of which possessed modern fortifica- 
tions. The detachments left to hold them had to utilize a large 
convent, a mediaeval castle, or some such post of defence, in 
case they were attacked by the roving hordes of the enemy. 
Able to protect themselves with ease against small parties, 
and to keep the roads open under ordinary circumstances, they 
were exposed to serious danger if the guerrilleros should mass 
themselves in force against any one garrison — more especially 
if the bands should have been lent a few cannon and gunners 
from the regular Spanish armies. For convents or old castles 
could not resist artillery fire. 

To cover his rear Suchet was forced to set aside one whole 
division, that of Frere, thirteen battalions strong \ and mus- 
tering over 7,000 men, and immense detachments of the three 
other French divisions of the Army of Aragon. The units told 
off for the field army left no less than 6,800 able-bodied men 
(besides sick and convalescents) behind them, while they took 
22,000 to the front. Frere's division remained on the side of 
Western Catalonia, holding Lerida and Tortosa in force, and 
the intermediate places with small posts. The detachments 
from Musnier's, Harispe's, and Habert's French, and from 
Palombini's Italian divisions, took charge of Southern Aragon, 
leaving a company here and a battalion there. But the Marshal 
selected with great care the men who were to march on the 
Valencian expedition : each regiment drafted its most effective 
soldiers into the marching units, and left the recruits and the old 
or sickly men in the garrisons. Thus the battalions used in 
the oncoming campaign were rather weak, averaging not much 
over 450 men, but were composed entirely of selected veterans. 
The only doubtful element taken forward was the so-called 
4 Neapolitan Division ' of General Compere, which was only 
1,500 strong — in reality a weak brigade — and had no great 
reputation. But what was left of this corps was its best part — 

1 Composed at this time of the 14th and 42nd and 115th Line, and the 
1st Leger, the first two and last each three battalions strong, the other 
(115th) with four. 


the numerous men who wanted to desert had already done so, 
and its weaklings were dead by this time. Of his cavalry 
Suchet took forward almost the whole, leaving behind only two 
squadrons of the 4th Hussars for the service between the 
garrisons, and of the other regiments only the weakly men and 
horses \ Practically all his horse and field artillery also went 
forward with him. 

Of his own Army of Aragon, Suchet, as we have thus seen, left 
nearly 14,000 men ' present under arms ' to cover his rear. 
But this was not enough to make matters wholly secure, so 
untameable were the Aragonese and Catalans with whom he had 
to deal. Indeed, if this force only had been left to discharge the 
appointed task, it is clear, from subsequent happenings, that 
he would have suffered a disaster during his absence in Valencia. 
He asked from the Emperor the loan of half Reille's division 
from Navarre, as well as the prompt sending to the front of 
Severoli's Italians, who had been promised him as a reinforce- 
ment when first they entered Spain. The petition was granted, 
and these troops entered northern Aragon, and took charge of 
the places along the Ebro, while the expeditionary army was on 
its way to Valencia. Most of them were ultimately brought 
forward to the siege of the great city, and without them neither 
could Aragon have been maintained nor Valencia captured. 
Practically we may say that Suchet, at his original start, took 
26,000 men to beat the Valencians and capture their city, but 
that he left nearly 30,000 more behind him, to hold down the 
provinces already conquered and to deal with the guerrilleros. 

Two main roads lead from the north to Valencia: the one, 
coming from Tortosa and Catalonia, hugs the coast of the 
Mediterranean, from which it is never more than a few miles 
distant. The other, far inland, and starting from Saragossa, 
follows the valley of the Xiloca among the hills of Southern 
Aragon, crosses the watershed beyond Teruel, and descends to 
the sea near Murviedro, where it joins the coast-road only a few 
miles north of Valencia. There is a third, and much inferior, 
route between these two, which starts from Mequinenza on the 

1 The 24th Dragoons left about 140 men behind, the 13th Cuirassiers 50 
only, the Italian 4 Dragoons of Napoleon ' 124, but the 4th Hussars about 
500, much more than half their force. 


Lower Ebro, crosses the mountainous Valencian frontier near 
Morella, and comes down to the coast at Castellon de la Plana, 
twenty miles north of Murviedro. Of these roads the first was 
as good as any in Spain, and was suitable for all manner of 
traffic : but it had the disadvantage of being flanked at a dis- 
tance of only two miles by the small but impregnable fortress 
of Peniscola, which lies on a rocky headland thirty miles beyond 
Tortosa, and of being absolutely blocked by the little town 
of Oropesa, twenty miles further south. Oropesa was no more 
than a ruinous mediaeval place, with two castles hastily repaired, 
without any modern works : but since the road passed through 
it, no heavy guns or wagons starting from Tortosa could get 
further south till its forts had been captured. 

The second road, that from Aragon by Teruel and Murviedro, 
is marked on contemporary maps as a post-route fit for all 
vehicles : but it passed through a very mountainous country, 
and was much inferior as a line of advance to the coast-road. 
It was not blocked by any fortress in the hands of the Spaniards, 
but between Teruel and Segorbe it was crossed by many ridges 
and ravines highly suitable for defence. The third track, that 
by Morella, was unsuitable for wheeled traffic, and could only 
be used by infantry and cavalry. Its one advantage was that 
Morella, its central point, had been already for some time in 
French hands, and contained a garrison and stores, which made 
it a good starting-point for a marching column. 

Suchet determined to use all three of these roads, though 
such a plan would have been most hazardous against a wary 
and vigorous enemy : for though they all converge in the end on 
the same point, Murviedro, they are separated from each other 
by long stretches of mountain, and have no cross-communica- 
tions. In especial, the road by Teruel was very distant from 
the other two, and any isolated column taking it might find 
itself opposed by immensely superior forces, during the last 
days of its march ; since Valencia, the enemy's base and head- 
quarters, where he would naturally concentrate, lies quite close 
to the concluding stages of the route Teruel-Murviedro. It 
must have been in sheer contempt for his opponent — a con- 
tempt which turned out to be justified — that the Marshal sent 
a detachment of eleven battalions by this road, for such a force of 


toMorella toTortosa 


^f^ojdn 5^.r^ <frJforA i iqiH 

to Granadi 

English Miles 
j 1 , i ■ > i 

10 20 30 40 50 


5,000 men might have been beset by the whole Valencian army, 
30,000 strong, and the other columns could not have helped it. 

Suchet's arrangements were governed by a single fact — his 
siege artillery and heavy stores were parked at Tortosa, and 
from thence, therefore, along the coast road, must be his main 
line of advance, though it would be necessary to mask Peniscola 
and to capture Oropesa, before he could get forward to his 
objective — the city of Valencia. It might have seemed rational 
to move the whole field army by this route : but some of the 
troops destined for it were coming from distant points, and to 
march them down the Ebro bank to Tortosa would have taken 
much time. Moreover if the whole force concentrated there, 
it would all have to be fed from the magazines at Tortosa, and 
those lying in Aragon would be of no use. The Marshal started 
himself from this point, on September 15, with the division of 
Habert, and an infantry reserve formed of Robert's brigade of 
the division of Musnier, together with the whole of the cavalry 
and field artillery of the army. The siege-train guarded by the 
other brigade of Musnier's division — that of Ficatier — followed : 
but Musnier himself did not accompany the expedition, having 
been left in general charge of the detachments placed in garrison 
on the Ebro and in Upper Aragon. The whole column made up 
about 11,000 combatants. 

The second column, consisting of the two auxiliary divisions — 
Palombini's eleven Italian battalions and Compere's 1,500 
Neapolitans — took (without any artillery to hamper them) the 
mountain road by Alcaniz and Morella : they were slightly 
over 7,000 strong, and, if all went well, were destined to unite 
with the main body somewhere near Oropesa or Castellon de la 
Plana. It was not likely that this column would meet with 
much opposition. 

But the third detachment, Harispe's 5,000 men from Upper 
Aragon, who were to take the inland and western road by 
Teruel, were essaying a very dangerous task, if the enemy 
should prove active and enterprising, more especially as they 
had no artillery and hardly any cavalry with them. Blake 
might have taken the offensive with 20,000 men against them, 
while still leaving something to contain — or at least to observe — 
Suchet's main column. 


The Spanish Commander-in-Chief, however, did nothing of the 
sort, and met the invasion with a tame and spiritless defensive 
on all its points. When Suchet's advance was reported, Blake 
had his forces in a very scattered situation. Of the 36,000 men 
of whom he could nominally dispose, the Empecinado's ' flying 
column ' was as usual detached in the mountains of Molina and 
Guadalajara, harassing small French garrisons. Zayas's division 
had been left far to the south at Villena, near Alicante, to work 
off the contagion of yellow fever which it had contracted while 
passing by Cartagena. For in that port the disease was raging 
terribly at the time. Obispo's division was in the high hills on 
the borders of Aragon. In the neighbourhood of Valencia were 
only the troops of Lardizabal and Miranda, with the main body 
of the cavalry. The Army of Murcia, which was destined to send 
succour if it should not find itself beset by Soult on the other 
side, was lying cantoned at various points in that province. As 
the French were at this time making no demonstration from the 
side of Granada, it now became clear that it would be able to 
send certain succours to Blake. But they were not yet desig- 
nated for marching, much less assembled, and it was clear that 
they would come up very late. 

This dispersion of the available troops did not, in the end, 
make much difference to the fate of the campaign, for Blake 
had from the first made up his mind to accept the defensive, 
to draw in his outlying detachments, and to stand at bay in the 
neighbourhood of Valencia, without attempting to make any 
serious resistance on the frontier. Since his arrival he had been 
urging on the construction of a line of earthworks, forming 
fortified camps, around the provincial capital. The ancient 
walls of Valencia itself were incapable of any serious resistance \ 
to modern artillery, but outside them, all along the banks of the 
Guadalaviar river, for some miles inland to the West, and as far i 
as the sea on the East, batteries, tetes-de-pont, trenches, and even I 
closed works of considerable size had been constructed. It was I 
by holding them in force and with great numbers that Blake j 
intended to check the invasion. In front of his chosen position, ! 
at a distance of twenty miles, there was a great advanced j 
work — a newly restored fortress of crucial importance — the 
fastness of Saguntum, or c San Fernando de Sagunto ' as it had I 


just been re-christened. This was the acropolis of one of the 
most ancient towns of Spain, the Saguntum which had detained 
Hannibal so long before its walls at the opening of the 
Third Punic War. In the age of the Iberians, the Cartha- 
ginians, and the Romans, and even down to the days of the 
Ommeyad califs, there had been a large and flourishing city on 
this site. But in the later middle ages Saguntum had declined 
in prosperity and population, and the modern town — which 
had changed its name to Murviedro (muri veteres) had shrunk 
down to the foot of the hill. It was now a small open place of 
6,000 souls, quite indefensible. But above it towered the steep 
line of rock which had formed the citadel in ancient days : its 
narrow summit was crowned with many ruins of various ages — 
from cyclopean foundations of walls, going back to the time 
of the ancient Iberians, to Moorish watch-towers and palaces. 
The empty space of steep slope, from the acropolis down to the 
modern town, was also sprinkled with decaying walls and 
substructures of all sorts, among which were cisterns and 
broken roadways, besides the remains of a large Roman 
theatre, partly hewn out of the live rock. 

There had been no fortifications by Murviedro when Suchet 
last passed near Valencia, in his abortive raid of March 1810 \ 
On that occasion he had scaled the citadel to enjoy the view 
and to take a casual survey of the picturesque ruins upon it 2 . 
But since then a great change had taken place. On the advice, 
as it is said, of the English general, Charles Doyle 3 , Blake had 
determined to restore the citadel as a place of strength. This 
was when he last held command in Valencia, and before he 
joined the Cadiz Regency. But his idea had been carried out 
after his departure by the Valencian Junta and the successive 
Captains-General who had come after him. By means of more 
than a year's work the citadel had been made a tenable fortress, 
though one of an irregular and unscientific sort. The old 
Iberian and Moorish walls had been repaired and run together 
in a new enceinte, with material taken from the other ruins all 
around. In especial the Roman theatre, hitherto one of the 
most perfect in Southern Europe, had been completely gutted, 

1 See vol. iii. pp. 284-6. 2 Suchet' s Mimoires, ii. p. 156. 

3 See Arteche, xi. p. 123. 


and its big blocks had proved most useful for building the 
foundations of weak points of the circuit of fortification. This 
was strong at some points, from the toughness and height of the 
old ramparts, but very sketchy at others. Where the slope was 
absolutely precipitous, a rough wall of dry stone without mortar 
alone had been carried along the edge of the cliff. The narrow 
summit of the rock formed a most irregular enclosure, varying 
much in height from one point to another. It was divided into 
four separate sections cut off from each other by cross-walls. 
The westernmost and lowest, facing the only point from which 
there is a comparatively gentle ascent to the summit, was 
crowned by a new battery called by the name of Dos de Mayo, 
to commemorate the Madrid Insurrection of 1808. Rising high 
in the centre of this work was an ancient bastion named the 
Tower of San Pedro. Much higher, on the extreme peak of the 
summit, was the citadel tower, called San Fernando, where the 
governor's flag flew, and from whence the whole fortress could 
be best surveyed. From this point the rock descended rapidly, 
and its long irregular eastern crest was surrounded by weakly- 
repaired walls, ending in two batteries called by the names of 
Menacho, the gallant governor of Badajoz \ and Doyle, the 
English general who had suggested the fortification of the place. 
But the greater part of this eastern end of the works lay above 
slopes so precipitous that it seemed unlikely that they would 
ever be attacked. The western end, by the Dos Mayo battery, 
was the obvious point of assault by an enemy who intended to 
use regular methods. 

The construction was by no means finished when Suchet's 
expedition began : many parts of the new walls were onl 
carried up to half their intended height, and no regular shelte 
for the garrison had been contrived. Instead of proper barrack 
and casemates there were only rough 4 leans-to,' contrive 
against old walls, or cover made by roofing in with beams old 
broken towers, and bastions. The hospital was the only spacious 
and regular building in the whole enceinte : the powder magazine 
was placed deep down in the cellars of the fort San Fernandojb 
The armament of the place was by no means complete : thdl 
guns were being sent up just as Suchet started. Only seventeei 
1 See vol. iv. p. 56. 


were ready, and of these no more than three were 12-pounders : 
the rest were only of the calibre of field artillery ^(4- and 
8-pounders) or howitzers. A fortress which has only seventeen 
guns for an enceinte of 3,000 yards, and possesses no heavy guns 
to reply to the 18- or 24-pounders of a siege-train, is in a state 
of desperate danger. 

Blake had thrown into the place a brigade under the com- 
mand of Colonel Luis Andriani, consisting of five battalions, 
two each of the regiments of Savoya and Don Carlos, one of 
the Cazadores de Orihuela. Of these two were new c third 
battalions 1 ' from the recently raised ' Division of Reserve,' 
incomplete in officers, only half drilled, and not yet fully 
provided with uniforms. The total force came to 2,663 officers 
and men, including about 150 artillerymen and sappers. It is 
probable that these troops would have made no better show in 
the open field than did the rest of the Valencian army, a few 
weeks later : but they showed behind walls the same capacity 
for unexpected resistance which had surprised the French on 
other occasions at Ciudad Rodrigo, Gerona, and Figueras. 
Andriani, the governor, seems to have made an honourable 
attempt to do his duty at the head of the doubtfully efficient 
garrison placed at his disposal. 

In addition to Saguntum Blake held two outlying posts in 
his front, Peniscola on its lofty headland, garrisoned by about 
1,000 men under General Garcia Navarro, and the half -ruined 
Oropesa, which he had resolved to hold, because it blocked the 
sea-coast road so effectively. But its only tenable points were 
two mediaeval towers, one in the town commanding the high- 
road, the other by the shore of the Mediterranean. Their 
joint garrisons did not amount to 500 men, and it was obvious 
that they could not hold out many days against modern 
artillery. But the gain of a day or two might conceivably be 
very valuable in the campaign that was about to begin. It is 
clear, however, that his main hope of resistance lay in the line of 
entrenched camps and batteries along the Guadalaviar, in front 
of Valencia : here he intended to make his real stand, and he 

The battalions were the 2nd and 3rd of Savoya (the last a new levy) 
the 1st and 2nd of Don Carlos, and the 3rd of Orihuela, this last raw and 
newly raised like the 3rd of Savoya. 


hoped that Saguntum, so little distant from this line, would 
prove a serious hindrance to the enemy when he came up 
against it. 

Suchet's three columns all started, as Napoleon had ordered, 
on September 15th. The Marshal's own main body, coming from 
Tortosa, reached Benicarlo, the first town across the Valencian 
frontier, next day, and on the 17th came level with Peniscola, 
whose garrison kept quiet within the limits of its isthmus. 
The Marshal left a battalion and a few hussars to observe 
it, and to see that it did not make sallies against his line 
of communication. On the 19th the head of the marching 
column reached Torreblanca, quite close to Oropesa. A recon- 
naissance found that the place was held, and came into con- 
tact with some Spanish horse, who were easily driven off. 
This was the first touch with Blake's field army that had been 
obtained. But the enemy was evidently not in force, and the 
garrison of Oropesa hastily retired into the two towers which 
formed its only tenable positions. On a close inspection it was 
found that the tower in the town completely commanded the 
high-road, wherefore the Marshal took a slight circuit by 
suburban lanes round the place, with his main body and guns, 
and continued his advance, after leaving a few companies to 
blockade the towers. On the same evening he was joined by 
Palombini's column from Morella, consisting of the two Italian 
divisions. They had accomplished their march without meeting 
any resistance, though the road from Morella by San Matteo 
and Cabanes was rough and easily defensible. The united 
force, now 16,000 strong, proceeded on its march next day, 
and the Marshal was agreeably surprised when, on the morning | 
of the 20th, the cavalry scouts on his right flank announced | 
to him that they had come in touch with Harispe's column from 
Teruel, which had appeared at the village of Villafanes a few; 
miles from the main road. Thus the whole army of invasion 
was happily united. 

Harispe, as it turned out, had left Teruel on the 15th, in 
obedience to his orders, by the post-road to Segorbe and the 
coast. But hearing on the second day that a large Valencian, 
force was holding the defile of Las Barracas, where the road 
crosses the watershed, he had turned off by a bad side-path to 


Ruvielos in the upper valley of the Mi j ares, in the hope of 
joining his chief without being forced to storm a difficult 
position. Blake, as a matter of fact, much alarmed at the 
approach of a flanking column on the Teruel side, and ignorant 
of its strength, had sent the division of Obispo and some other 
detachments to hold the pass. But no enemy came this way — 
Harispe had diverged down the course of the Villahermosa 
river, by a country road only practicable for a force without 
guns or wheeled transport, and got down by rapid marches to 
the coast-plain beyond Alcora, without having seen any enemy 
save some scattered guerrillero bands. He had thoroughly 
distracted Blake's attention and had run no danger, because he 
took an unexpected and difficult route, in a direction quite 
different from that by which the Spaniards expected him to 
appear \ 

The whole army was now concentrated near Villafanes on 
September 21, save the detachments left to block Peniscola and 
Oropesa, and the brigade of Ficatier, which, escorting the siege- 
train, had been left at Tortosa, to await orders for starting when 
there should be no enemy left in northern Valencia to molest it. 
The heavy guns were to come forward down the coast-road, 
first to breach the towers of Oropesa, and when the way past 
them was clear, to play their part, if necessary, in the more 
serious task of battering Saguntum. 

On advancing from Castellon de la Plana on September 22 
the French army found a very small Spanish rearguard — 500 or 
600 men — covering the bridge of Villareal over the Mi j ares. 
They gave way before the first attack, which was a very 
simple affair, since the river was nearly dry and every- 
where fordable. No more was seen of the enemy next day, 
and on the 23rd Suchet found himself on the banks of the 
Palancia stream, which flows under the foot of the rock of 
Saguntum. The Spaniards had retired still further towards 
Valencia, leaving the fortress to its own resources. These were 

Vacani says that the Teruel column was intended by Suchet as a mere 
demonstration, and was never intended to follow the high-road Teruel- 
Segorbe, but to take a cross-route over the hills, such as was actually used 
by it. But Suchet, in his Memoires, makes no such statement (ii.p.152), and 
speaks as if Harispe had taken the Ruvielos route on his own responsibility. 


unknown to Suchet, who was aware that the ruinous citadel 
had been rebuilt, but could not tell without further recon- 
naissance what was its strength. In order to invest the place, 
and to make closer investigation possible, Harispe's division 
crossed the Palancia to the right of Saguntum, Habert's to the 
left. The latter sent six companies into the town of Murviedro, 
and drove up some Spanish pickets from it into the fortress 
which towered above. The two divisions then joined hands 
to the south of Saguntum, completing its investment, while 
Palombini's Italians took post at Petres and Gillet on the road 
to Segorbe — to the north-west — in case Blake might have 
placed some of his troops on this side-route, with the object of 
troubling the siege by attacks from the rear. The cavalry went 
forward down the high-road to Valencia, and sent back news 
that they had explored as far as Albalete, only six miles from 
the capital, and had met no enemy. The division of Lardizabal 
and the cavalry of San Juan, which had been the observing 
force in front of Suchet, had retired beyond the Guadalaviar 
river, and had shut themselves up (along with the rest of Blake's 
army) in the entrenchments behind that stream. The Spanish 
general was evidently acting on the strictest principles of 
passive defence. 

The French marshal determined not to seek his enemy on 
his chosen ground, till he should have taken Saguntum and 
brought up his siege-train to the front. The former condition 
he thought would not prove difficult to accomplish. A survey 
of the fortress revealed its extremely irregular and incomplete 
state of defence. Though the cliffs were in all parts steep and j 
in some places inaccessible, many sections of the works above 
them were obviously unfinished and very weak. After a close 
reconnaissance by his engineer officers had been made, Suchet i 
determined that it would be worth while to try an attempt at 
escalade on some of the most defective points, without waiting 
for the arrival of the siege-train. He set his sappers and, 
carpenters to work to make sixty ladders, which were ready in 
full number on the third day. The front chosen for the assault; 
was in the enceinte immediately overhanging the town of, 
Murviedro, where two ancient gaps in the wall were clearly 
visible ; the new work was not half finished, and a low structure, 


roughly completed with beams laid above the regular founda- 
tions, was all that blocked the openings. The masons of the 
garrison were heard at night, working hard to raise the height 
of the stone wall which was to replace the temporary wooden 
parapets. There being no artillery available, they could not 
be hindered in their building : but it did not seem to advance 
very rapidly. 

Suchet set apart for the actual escalade two columns, each 
composed of 300 volunteers from Habert's division : they were 
to be supported by a reserve of similar strength under Colonel 
Gudin, which was formed up, completely under cover, within the 
streets of Murviedro. At midnight on September 27th-28th the 
stormers pushed forward under cover of the darkness, and in 
small successive parties, into a large Roman cistern above the 
ruined theatre, which was c dead ground,' and not exposed to 
fire from any part of the ramparts. Here they were only 
120 yards from the two breaches. Meanwhile, as a diversion, 
six Italian companies from Palombini's division were ordered 
to make a noisy demonstration against the distant part of the 
defences which lay under the tower of San Pedro 1 . General 
Habert was to have 2,000 men more under arms, ready to 
support the assailing column. 

The stormers reached their appointed place apparently 
undiscovered, and the attack would have been delivered — 
i according to Suchet's dispatch — without any preliminary firing, 
! but for an accident. The Marshal says that the Spaniards 
; had pushed an exploring patrol down the hillside, which fell in 
with the French pickets and drew their fire. Thereupon the 
assaulting columns in the cistern, thinking themselves dis- 
covered, let off a few shots and charged uphill, a little ahead 
of the appointed time, and before the Italian demonstration 
had begun 2 . The governor, Andriani, in his dispatch, makes no 
mention of this, but merely says that about 2 a.m. his sentinels 
thought that they detected movements on the slopes, and 

1 The complete orders for the attack may be read in the first Pidce 
justificative in Belmas's history of the siege, pp. 115-17 of vol. iv of his 
elaborate work. 

Vacani (v. p. 381) contradicts Suchet, saying that there was no Spanish 
j patrol, and that the French pickets fired from nervousness at an imaginary 

OMAN. V n 


that a short time afterwards a fierce attack was delivered. '■ 
At any rate the garrison was not surprised as Suchet had 

Owing to the lowness, however, of the walls blocking the two t 
old breaches, the assailants had, in their first rush, a fair chance 
of breaking in. Many ladders were successfully planted, and I 
repeatedly small parties of the French got a footing on the ; 
wooden parapets. If the garrison had flinched, the storm might j 
have succeeded : but far from flinching, they offered a desperate j 
resistance, overthrew the ladders, slew all who had gained the j.J 
top of the enceinte, and kept up a furious musketry fire, which . 
laid low many of the soldiers who kept pressing forward to the 
breaches. It was to no purpose that the demonstration by jj 
the Italians below San Pedro now began : the Spaniards fired 
hard and fast in this direction also, but did not withdraw any i 
men from the real point of attack, where they maintained them- jj 
selves very courageously. It was in vain that Colonel Gudin 
brought up his reserve : it could make no head, and the sur- ! j 
vivors threw themselves down among the rocks and ruins in 1 
front of the wall — unwilling to recede, but quite unable to 
advance. Seeing his attack a hopeless failure, Suchet ordered ' \ 
the stormers back just before daylight began to appear. They ! ii 
had lost 247 killed and wounded out of 900 men engaged : the i i 
garrison only 15 killed and less than 30 wounded \ 

The escalade having come to this disappointing conclusion, | >i 
the Marshal saw that the siege of Saguntum would be anything 
but a quick business. It would be necessary to bring up the 
siege-train to the front : orders were sent back to Ficatier toi i 
start it at once from Tortosa ; but it had to batter and take! t 
Oropesa before it could even reach Murviedro. There were | 
some weeks of delay before him, and meanwhile Blake might at' 
last begin to show some signs of life. Suchet therefore disposed 
his army so as to provide both a blockading force and a covering 
force, to see that the blockade was not interfered with from 
without. It being evident that many days would elapse before; 

Vacani makes the losses 360 instead of 247, and it is possible tha 
Suchet has given only the casualties at the main assault, and not those ii 
the distant demonstrations. Vacani says that the Italians lost 52 men ii 
their false attack. 


the siege artillery arrived, the French engineer officers got leave 
to employ many detachments in preparing roads fit to bear 
heavy guns up the western slopes of the hill of Saguntum, 
from which alone the regular attack on the fortress could be 
conducted. Several emplacements for batteries were also 
chosen, and work upon them was begun. 

From September 23rd, the day of Suchet's arrival before 
Saguntum, down to October 16, when the heavy guns at last 
arrived, the French army was practically ' marking time ' : the 
idea which the Emperor had conceived, and which his lieutenant 
had adopted, that Valencia could be conquered by a sudden 
rush, had been proved false. Apparently Suchet had gained no 
more by his rapid advance to the foot of the hill of Saguntum 
than he would have obtained by marching in more leisurely 
fashion, with his siege artillery in company, and taking Oropesa 
on the way. The reduction of that place indeed was (as it 
turned out) only a single day's task for heavy guns : and if the 
Marshal had captured it on his march, he might have presented 
himself before Saguntum with his siege-train, and have begun 
an active attack on that fortress, some weeks before he was 
actually able to get to serious work. In fact he might have 
been battering Saguntum on October 1, instead of having to 
wait till October 16th. But this is ' wisdom after the event ' : 
Napoleon thought that Valencia could be ' rushed,' and 
Suchet was bound to make the experiment that his master 

Blake meanwhile, finding, on September 23rd, that the enemy 
was not about to advance against his lines, and learning soon 
after that the French army had settled down before Saguntum, 
had to revise his plans, since it was clear that he was not to be 
attacked in his entrenchments as he had supposed. Three 
courses were now open to him : either he might collect every 
man for a decisive battle in the open, and try to raise the siege ; 
or he might attempt to open up attacks on Suchet's line of 
communications and on his base in Aragon, so as to force him 
to retire by indirect operations ; or he might remain passive 
behind the lines of the Guadalaviar. The last was an almost 
unthinkable alternative — it would have ruined his reputation 
1 for ever to sit quiet and do nothing, as Wellington had done 

c 2 


during the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo in 1810. Only a general 
with an established reputation for courage and ability could 
have dared to take such a course ; and Blake's record was a long 
series of disasters, while he was detested by the Valencians one 
and all — by the army, to whom he rightly preferred his own 
excellent troops, no less than by the Captain-General Palacios, 
and the Junta, whom he had sent out of the city to sit at 
Alcira, when they showed a tendency to hamper his operations. 
Practically he was forced by his situation to take some definite 
offensive move against Suchet. 

He chose that of indirect operations, having a well-rooted 
distrust of the fighting powers of a great part of the troops that 
were at his disposition. The record of the Valencian army he 
knew : the state of the Murcian army, on which he could draw 
for reinforcements, was represented to him in the most gloomy 
colours by Mahy, who had recently replaced Freire in command. 
On September 12th Mahy had written to him, to warn him that 
the spirit of his troops was detestable : ' the Army of Murcia was 
little better than a phantom : there were only four or five officers 
for whom the rank and file had any respect or esteem, the rest 
were regarded as timid or incapable : the men had no confidence 
in themselves or their chiefs. The best thing to do would be to | 
break up the whole army, and incorporate it into the " Expe- 
ditionary Divisions," whose commanders were known as good! 
soldiers, and whose battalions were trustworthy V 

In view of these facts Blake resolved to threaten Suchet 's! 
flanks with demonstrations, which he had no intention oi 
turning into attacks, but to endeavour to dislodge him froml 
his forward position by turning loose the guerrilleros of Aragon 
on to his rear. With the former purpose he sent out twoj 
detachments from the Valencian lines, Obispo's division to! 
Segorbe, — where it cut the French communication with Terueli 
and southern Aragon, — Charles O'Donnell with Villacampa'si 
infantry and San Juan's horse to Benaguacil, a point in the! 
plains fifteen miles west of Saguntum, where his force formed a 
link between Obispo and the main body of the Valencian army 

1 See Mahy's letter to Blake on pp. 109-12 of vol. xi of Arteche. Thi 
General is writing very carefully so as not to speak too ill of his army : birj 
his views are clear. 



which still remained entrenched in the lines of the Guadalaviar 1 » 
These two detachments threatened Suchet's flank, and even 
his rear, but there was no intention of turning the threat into 
a reality. 

The real movement on which Blake relied for the discomfiture 
of the invaders of Valencia was that of the guerrillero bands of 
Aragon and the neighbouring parts of Castile, to whom he had 
appealed for help the moment that Suchet commenced his 
march. He believed that the 6,000 or 7,000 men which Suchet 
had left scattered in small garrisons under General Musnier 
might be so beset and worried by the partidas, that the Marshal 
might be compelled to turn back to their aid. Even Mina from 
his distant haunts in Navarre had been asked to co-operate. 
This was an excellent move, and might have succeeded, if 
Musnier alone had remained to hold down Aragon. But Blake 
had forgotten in his calculations the 15,000 men of Reille and 
Severoli, cantoned in Navarre and along the Upper Ebro, who 
were available to strengthen the small force which lay in the 
garrisons under Musnier's charge. 

The diversion of the guerrilleros, however, was effected with 
considerable energy. On September 26th the Empecinado and 
Duran appeared in front of Calatayud, the most important of 
the French garrisons in the mountains of western Aragon. 
They had with them 5,000 foot and 500 horse — not their full 
strength, for a large band of the Empecinado's men beset at 
the same time the remote castle of Molina, the most outlying 
and isolated of all Suchet's posts. Calatayud was held by a few 
companies of French, to which an Italian flying column of 
a battalion had just joined itself. The guerrilleros, coming in 
with a rush, drove the garrison out of the town into their 
fortified post, the large convent of La Merced, taking many 
prisoners in the streets. Duran then beleaguered the main 
body in the convent, while the Empecinado took post at the 
defile of El Frasno on the Saragossa road, to hold off any succour 
that Musnier might send up from the Aragonese capital. This 
precaution was justified — a column of 1,000 men came out of 
Saragossa, but was far too weak to force the pass and had to 

1 Blake kept under his own hand in the lines the divisions of Zayas, 
Lardizabal, Miranda, and the Reserve. 


retire, with the loss of its commander, Colonel Gillot, and many- 
men. Meanwhile Duran pressed the besieged in the convent 
with mines, having no artillery of sufficient calibre to batter its 
walls. After blowing down a corner of its chapel with one 
mine, and killing many of the defenders, the guerrillero chief 
exploded a second on October 3, which made such a vast breach 
that the garrison surrendered, still 560 strong, on the following 
day 1 . 

This success would have gone far to shake the hold of the 
French on Aragon, but for the intervention of Reille from 
Navarre. At the first news of the blockade of Calatayud, he 
had dispatched a column, consisting of the whole brigade of 
Bourke, 3,500 strong, which would have saved the garrison if 
it had had a less distance to march. But it arrived on the 5th to 
find the convent blown up, while the Spaniards had vanished 
with their prisoners. Bourke thereupon returned to Tudela, and 
the guerrilleros reoccupied Calatayud on his departure. 

Meanwhile, however, the whole Italian division of Severoli, 
over 7,000 strong, marched down the Ebro to reinforce the 
small garrison of Saragossa. This large reinforcement restored 
the confidence of the French. Musnier himself took charge of 
it and marched at its head against Duran and the Empecinado. 
They wisely refused to fight, gave way, evacuated Calatayud, 
and took refuge in the hills (October 12). While the main field- 
force of the enemy was drawn off in this direction, Mina took 
up the game on the other side of the Ebro. Entering Aragon 
with 4,000 men he besieged the small garrison of Exea, which 
abandoned its post, and cut its way through the guerrilleros, 
till it met a column of 800 Italian infantry 2 sent out from 
Saragossa to bring it off. Colonel Ceccopieri, the leader of this 
small force, underrating the strength of his enemy, then 
marched to relieve the garrison of Ayerbe. He was surprised 
on the way by Mina's whole force, and in a long running fight 
between Ayerbe and Huesca was surrounded and slain. The 
column was exterminated, two hundred Italians were killed, six 

1 Vacani gives a long and interesting account of the siege (v. pp. 404-13) 
and attributes the weak defence to quarrels between the commander of the 
Italians and the French governor, Muller. 

2 Belonging to the 7th Line of Severoli's division. 


hundred (including many wounded) were taken prisoners 
(October 16th). 

Musnier returned in haste from Calatayud at the news of 
this disaster, but left the bulk of Severoli's division to occupy 
western Aragon. He then set himself, with the help of Reille, 
to hunt down Mina. But the latter, marching with ease 
between the columns that pursued him, for the peasantry kept 
him informed day by day of every movement of the enemy, 
retreated westward. Easily eluding the French, he made an 
extraordinary excursion, right across Navarre, Alava, and 
Biscay, down to the sea coast at Motrico, where he handed over 
his prisoners to the captain of the British frigate Isis, and then 
returned unharmed to his familiar haunts. Of such a delusive 
nature was the hold of the French on Northern Spain, that 
a column of 5,000 men could march for 200 miles across it 
without being intercepted or destroyed. 

All these exploits of the guerrilleros were daring and well 
planned, but though they had given Musnier much trouble, and 
cost the French many a weary hour of march and countermarch, 
they had not cleared Aragon of the enemy, nor shaken Suchet's 
position. Indeed, on October 20, the general condition of 
affairs in Aragon was more favourable for the invaders than on 
September 20, for two fresh divisions had been drawn down 
into that province, and there were 20,000 French and Italian 
troops in it instead of 6,000. The petty disasters at Calatayud 
and Ayerbe were irritating rather than important. Suchet never 
for a moment felt inclined to relax his hold upon Valencia : 
that western Aragon was in an uproar affected him little, when 
his communication with his two main depots of stores at 
Tortosa and Morella was not interrupted. 

Blake, it may be mentioned, did not content himself with 
setting the Empecinado and Duran in motion, he tried another 
division in another quarter with even less result. Rumours had 
reached him that King Joseph's Army of the Centre was about 
to co-operate with Suchet, by sending a column across the 
mountains to Cuenca and Requena. The news was false, for 
though Napoleon had ordered the King to do what he could to 
help in the invasion of Valencia, Joseph had replied that he 
had not even one brigade to spare for a serious demonstration, 


and had not moved — the guerrilleros gave sufficient occupation 
to his much-scattered army, of which a large portion was com- 
posed of untrustworthy Spanish Juramentados. But, listening 
to vain reports, Blake ordered Mahy to collect the best of his 
Murcian troops and to march on Cuenca to meet the supposed 
invaders. His subordinate, leaving Freire in command in 
Murcia, took seven selected battalions of foot under Creagh and 
the Marquis of Monti jo, with 800 horse and one battery, and 
moved from his camp at Mula by Hellin and Chinchilla north- 
ward. The distance to be covered was great, the roads after 
Chinchilla very bad. Mahy arrived in front of Cuenca on 
October 15th, to find that there was only one battalion and two 
squadrons of Joseph's army there. This little force evacuated 
the high-lying city in haste, and fled towards Madrid the 
moment that the Murcians showed themselves. No other 
French force could be heard of in any direction. At Cuenca 
Mahy received a dispatch from Blake (who had apparently 
discovered his mistake about the Army of the Centre), telling 
him to descend from the mountains by Moya and Liria, and to 
join the wing of the main army, which lay under Obispo at 
Segorbe. It was only on the 23rd October that he came in : his 
troops, the pick of the Murcian army, had been completely 
wasted for some twenty days in a circular march against 
a non-existent enemy. Meanwhile every man had been wanted 
in Valencia. 

Suchet, when once he had settled down to the siege of 
Saguntum, had not failed to notice Blake's weak demonstration i 
against his flank by means of the divisions of Obispo and Charles 
O'Donnell. He did not intend to tolerate it, and on Septem- 
ber 30 had sent Palombini with his own Italian division and 
Robert's French brigade to beat up Obispo's quarters at Segorbe. 
The Spanish division made a poor attempt to defend itself on 
a position in front of that town, but was easily beaten and 
retired into the mountains. It was then the turn of Charles 
O'Donnell ; when Palombini had come back to the camp, 
Suchet took Harispe's division, with Robert's brigade, and two 
regiments of cavalry, to evict the Spanish division from Bena- 
guacil. O'Donnell made a slightly better fight than Obispo had 
done, and deployed Villacampa's infantry behind an irrigation 


canal, with San Juan's cavalry on his flanks. But the French 
were superior in numbers as well as in confidence : one fierce 
charge broke O'Donnell's line, and he had to retreat in haste 
to the hills behind him, losing 400 men, cut up in the pursuit 
by Suchet's cavalry, while the French casualties barely reached 
three officers and sixty men (October 2nd). Blake, who had been 
quite close enough to succour O'Donnell if he had chosen, made 
no attempt to aid him, and kept quiet behind his lines on the 
Guadalaviar. There the routed troops joined him next day. 

Suchet, having thus cleared his flanks, settled down to the 
siege of Saguntum, where his heavy artillery was now much 
needed. The besieging army had to content itself for another 
fortnight with making preparations for the expected train — 
levelling roads and constructing approaches on the ground 
which was destined for the front of attack, at the west end of 
the hill of Saguntum. 

Meanwhile the siege-train was lumbering down from Tortosa 
by the coast-road. On October 6th Suchet started to meet it, 
taking with him the 1,500 Neapolitans of Compere. On the 
8th he reached Oropesa, where he found the small Spanish 
garrison still holding the two towers which have before been 
mentioned. The first guns that came up were turned against 
the tower by the high-road ; it was easily breached, and on the 
10th surrendered : 215 men and four guns were captured. 
Next day came the turn of the other tower, that by the sea ; 
but before the siege-battery had opened on it, the British 
74 Magnificent and a squadron of Spanish gunboats ran in- 
shore, and took off the garrison of 150 men in their boats, under 
the ineffective fire of the French. 

The moment that the tower which blocked the high-road 
had fallen, and before that on the shore had been evacuated, 
Suchet began to push the head of his precious convoy of heavy 
artillery southward. It made such a good pace that the first 
guns arrived at the camp before Saguntum as early as the 
night of October 12th. Meanwhile the Marshal himself returned 
thither, escorted by Compere's Neapolitans : the brigade of 
Ficatier, which had escorted the train hitherto, was dispersed 
to cover the line of communications, placing its five battalions 
at Oropesa, Almenara, and Segorbe. 



After Charles O'Donnell and Obispo had been driven away 
from the threatening position upon Suchet's flank, Blake found 
himself during the early days of October in a very unpleasant 
dilemma. It was clear that his own feeble efforts to molest the 
French army were a complete failure. Presently the message 
reached him that Mahy's unlucky expedition to Cuenca had 
been absolutely useless. But the most disheartening news was 
that the attempt to overrun Aragon by means of the guerrilleros 
had failed ; its initial success, the capture of Calatayud on 
October 3, had only led to the inundation of the whole country- 
side in that direction by the numerous battalions of Reille and 

As the days wore on, Blake found himself obliged to confess 
that the idea of dislodging Suchet by operations in his rear was 
hopeless. The only remaining alternative for him was to 
endeavour to call together every available man, and to try to 
beat the French army in a great pitched battle. Considering the 
well-known disrepute of both the Murcian and the Valencian 
troops, the prospect was not one that the Spanish general could 
view with much confidence. But political reasons forced him 
to fight — his policy of passive resistance had made him so un- 
popular with the Valencians of all ranks, from the members of 
the exiled Junta down to the private soldiers, that if he had 
held back any longer it is probable that he might have been 
deposed or murdered by a conspiracy. Saguntum was holding 
out most gallantly, and the ignominy of leaving it to fall, 
without making any effort for its succour, was sufficiently 
evident. He made up his mind about the middle of October 
that he must advance and fight. But, being very properly 
determined to fight with all available resources, he had to; 
await the descent of Mahy and the Murcians from Cuenca, and 


by his own fault that important column could not be drawn 
in to the main army before the 23rd. It was only on that 
day that an advance in force became possible : for a week 
and more Blake anxiously awaited the junction, and until it 
took place he would not move. 

Meanwhile Suchet, entirely unmolested, was pressing the 
siege of Saguntum with all possible expedition. The first siege- 
guns from Tortosa reached his camp, as has been already men- 
tioned, on October 12th. But it was not till four days later that 
the actual battering of the place began. Though paths had 
been traced out, and the emplacements of batteries settled, 
long ere the siege-train came up, the actual getting of the guns 
into position proved a very tiresome business, on account of the 
steep and rocky slopes over which they had to be dragged. And 
the construction of approaches and parallels upon the hillside 
progressed very slowly, because of the absence of earth — at 
last it was found that soil to bind the loose stones of the ground 
together would have, for the most part, to be carried up in 
sandbags from the valley below, for hardly any could be scraped 
together on the spot. The engineer officer who wrote the diary 
of the siege confesses that if the Spanish garrison had only been 
provided with heavy artillery, the approach-building would 
have proved almost impossible *. But, as has been already 
noted, there were but seventeen guns mounted in the whole 
fortress, and of these only three were 12-pounders — the rest 
being small field-pieces, too weak to batter down parapets of 
even modest thickness. Moreover the very steepness of the 
slope over which the siege-works were being advanced made 
much of it 4 dead ground,' which guns above could not properly 
sweep or search out. 

On the 11th of October the two generals, Vallee and Rogniat, 
who had regularly commanded Suchet's artillery and engineers 
during his previous sieges, arrived from the rear — both had been 
in France on leave, and they had come forward with the train 
from Tortosa to Oropesa. Their arrival added confidence to 
the subordinates who had hitherto worked without them, for 
the reputation of each for success was very great. Rogniat 
immediately on his arrival made several important modifica- 
1 Belmas, iv. p. 97. 


tions in the projected batteries, and showed how the approaches 
might be pushed forward to within seventy yards of the fortress, 
by taking advantage of favourable dips and rocky outcrops in 
the hillside. 

On the 16th, five batteries were armed with the guns 
which had come up, and fire was opened upon the projecting 
western angle of the fortress, the tower of San Pedro. It proved 
to be made of ancient Moorish stone and mortar, almost as 
hard as iron, and crumbled very slowly. But the modern 
works below it, which were only a few months old, owned no 
such resisting power, and within two days showed signs of 
serious damage. The Spanish counter-fire was insignificant — 
there were very few guns available, and it was only when the 
approaches got within easy musket shot of the walls that 
the besiegers began to suffer appreciable casualties. For the 
Spanish infantry, disregarding the cannonade, kept up a furious 
fire against the heads of the saps all day and night. 

On the afternoon of the 18th the engineer and artillery 
officers reported to Suchet that they had made a sufficient 
breach in the curtain of the work called the Dos Mayo battery, 
just where it joined on the tower of San Pedro, and that they 
regarded it as practicable for assault. The Marshal ordered 
that the storm should be fixed for the same evening, lest the 
Spaniards should succeed in repairing the breach during the 
hours of darkness. The column of assault consisted of 400 men, 
picked from Habert's division, supported by a reserve of 
Palombini's Italians. The fire of the siege artillery was kept up 
to the last moment, and did much harm to the garrison, who 
were very clearly seen piling gabions, sandbags, and stones on 
the ruinous lip of the breach, in disregard of the steady fire that 
kept pounding it down 1 . 

The assault was duly delivered at five o'clock, and proved 
a complete failure. The stormers found the breach most difficult 
to climb, as its face was entirely formed of big blocks of stone 
without earth or debris. The column won its way half up the 
ascent, and isolated officers and men got further, and were 
bayoneted or shot at close quarters by the defenders, who 
clustered very thickly at the top. But no general rush of men 
1 See narrative of Vacani, an eye-witness (vol. v. p. 399). 


could reach the summit, where (it is said) the actual gap in the 
parapet was not more than six or seven feet broad. After 
several ineffective attempts to mount, the assailants came to 
a stand on the lower part of the slope, and opened a scattering 
fire on the Spaniards above them. Whereupon, seeing the 
opportunity lost, General Habert, who had been given charge of 
the operations, ordered the men to fall back to the trenches, 
and to abandon the assault. 

This was a most creditable feat of arms for the garrison, who 
had hardly a cannon to help them, and held their own almost 
entirely by musketry fire, though they rolled some live shells, 
beams, and large stones down the breach at intervals. Their 
casualties were heavy, but those of the assailants, as was 
natural, much greater. Suchet lost at least 300 men, though 
in his dispatch to the Emperor * he gave an elaborate table of 
casualties showing a total of only 173. But his ' returns,' even 
the most specious looking of them, should never be trusted — as 
will be seen when we are dealing with the second battle of Castalla 
in a later volume. This excellent officer was as untrustworthy 
as Soult or Massena in the figures which he sent to his master 2 . 

After this Suchet resolved to make no more attempts to 
storm Saguntum. ' When even the best of soldiers,' remarks 
Belmas, ' have made every effort to carry a place and have 
failed, they imagine that the place is impregnable. And if 
an attempt is made to lead them once more to an assault, 
they will not again act with the confidence which is needed to 
secure victory.' Wellington was to find this out at Burgos, a 

1 To be found in print in Belmas, iv. pp. 124-8. 

2 This indictment of Suchet must be supported by details. In his 
elaborate table of casualties by corps at the end of his dispatch of Oct. 20, 
he only allows for 3 officers killed and 8 wounded, 40 men killed and 122 
wounded — total 173. But the lists of officers' casualties in Martinien 
show, on the other hand, five officers killed (Coutanceau, Saint Hilaire, 
Turno, Giardini, Cuny), and at least ten wounded (Mathis, Durand, Gauchet, 
D'Autane, Adhemar, Gattinara, Lamezan, D'Esclaibes, Maillard, Laplane), 
and probably three more. 

Oddly enough, in his Memoires (ii. p. 173) Suchet gives by name four 
officers killed at the breach (out of the five), while in his official report 
he had stated that there were only three killed altogether. We must 
trust rather Vacani, an eye-witness and a man much interested in statistics 
and casualties, when he gives the total of 300 for the losses, than Suchet's 


year later. Indeed in their early stages the sieges of Saguntum 
and Burgos show a rather notable parallelism, though their ends 
were dissimilar. General Rogniat easily persuaded the Marshal 
to drop the heroic method which had gained so little success, 
and to fall back on the systematic work which is slow but cer- 
tain V Suchet gave permission to the engineers to establish 
more batteries, and to defer all further attempts to storm till 
the approaches should have been carried up to the very foot 
of the walls, and the whole curtain of the Dos Mayo redoubt 
should have been battered down. 

The garrison, much encouraged by their successful effort 
of the 18th, continued to make an obstinate resistance : as 
the enemy sapped uphill towards them, they kept up such 
a careful and deadly fire that the casualties in the trenches 
amounted every day to 15 or 20 men. For the next six days 
nothing decisive happened, though the works continued to 
creep slowly forward : they had to be built with parapets 
consisting entirely of earth brought from below, and made very 
high, since the nearer they got to the works, the more did the 
plunging fire from above search them out. 

Meanwhile Blake was preparing, though with no great self- 
confidence, to make an attack on Suchet's siege-lines, and was 
only awaiting the arrival of Mahy and the Murcians before 
striking. He began by trying a feeble diversion on the flank, 
sending back Obispo's division once more to Segorbe, and 
getting some of the Empecinado's bands to threaten Teruel, the 
southernmost of the garrisons in Aragon. This so far annoyed the 
French marshal that on the 20th of October he sent off Palom- 
bini, with one French and one Italian brigade and 400 horse, 
to drive Obispo out of Segorbe, and to open the road to Teruel. 
By so doing he placed himself in a dangerous position, for he 
had detached 4,500 men on an excursion which could not take 
less than four days, and if Blake had refused to wait for Mahy, 
and had let Obispo amuse Palombini, he could have marched 
against the siege-lines with 20,000 men, including all his best! 
troops, and would have found only 12,000, besides the gunners 
of the siege artillery, left in the French camp. If Suchet had | 
left any detachments to maintain the blockade, as he probably; 
1 Belmas, iv. p. 96. 


would have done, he could only have fought with odds of less 
than one to two. If he had brought up all his battalions, the 
garrison would have sallied forth and destroyed his siege-works. 

But Blake did not take his chance — whatever it may have 
been worth : he waited for Mahy, who was only due on 
the 23rd. Meanwhile Palombini made a rapid raid upon 
Segorbe : but Obispo, leaving two battalions only to make 
a show of resistance, crossed the hills by by-paths and drew in 
to Liria, on the flank of the main army, and in close touch 
with it. He could have been used for a battle, if Blake 
had chosen to deliver one upon the 22nd or 23rd. But the 
unlucky Spanish general did not so choose : and Palombini — 
finding nothing serious in front of him, and hearing that Teruel 
had been already relieved by Severoli — rightly returned by 
forced marches to Saguntum, which he reached on the afternoon 
of the 24th of October. 

Meanwhile the long-expected Mahy arrived at Liria on 
the night of the 23rd, and found Obispo already lying 
there. The two forces united, and marched on the 24th 
to Betera, but there again divided, the Murcians going 
on to join Blake's main body, while the Valencian division 
received orders from the Commander-in-Chief to move as an 
independent flanking column, and from Naquera to fall upon 
the flank or right rear of Suchet's position in front of Saguntum. 

On the same day Blake himself broke out of the lines behind 
the Guadalaviar, and after issuing a well-worded proclamation, 
in which he said that Andriani's gallant garrison must not 
perish unassisted, and declared a confidence which he must 
have been far from feeling in the resolution of his troops, 
advanced for some miles along the high-road, so as to place him- 
self at nightfall within striking distance of the enemy. 

His plan of operations, which was clearly set forth in his direc- 
tions to Mahy \ was ambitious in the highest degree, and aimed 
at the complete destruction of his enemy. Expecting to find 
Suchet drawn up to meet him in the plain south of Saguntum, 
it appears that he intended to fight a battle in which an im- 
mensely strong left wing was to turn and break down Suchet's 
right, while a weaker right wing (composed, however, of his 
1 Which may be read in full in Arteche, xi. pp. 157-9. 


best troops) was to attack him frontally, and hold his main I 
body 4 contained,' while the turning movement was delivered. 
The left wing contained 26 battalions and nearly 20 squadrons, 
making nearly 16,000 bayonets and 1,700 sabres \ The 
detached division of Obispo, from Naquera, was to fall on the j 
extreme French right from the rear ; the two other Valencian 
infantry divisions (Miranda and Villacampa), led by Charles 
O'Donnell, were to tackle it in front. Mahy's Murcians were 
to support O'Donnell, at the same time reaching out a hand | 
towards Obispo — in order to do this Mahy was directed to send j 
out two battalions (under a Colonel O'Ronan) to Cabezbort, a hill- j 
side intermediate between the point where Obispo was expected | 
and the left of the two other Valencian divisions. The left wing j 
had allotted to it the whole of the Murcian horse, 800 sabres, 
and one of the two Valencian cavalry brigades, under General i 
San Juan, which was of about the same strength. It had also 
18 guns. 

So much for the left wing. The right wing, conducted by ;< 
Blake in person, which had advanced up the high-road from j 
Valencia towards Murviedro, consisted of the two ' Expe- ! 
ditionary Divisions ' of Zayas and Lardizabal, both very weak 
because of the losses which they had suffered in the campaign ; 
around Baza in August — each was eight battalions strong ; j 
but the former had only 2,500, the latter 3,000 men, so that the 
units averaged well under 400 bayonets. But these were good j 
old troops, which had greatly distinguished themselves at 
Albuera : they were the only part of Blake's army in which , 
any real confidence could be placed. In support of these 
veterans the Commander-in-Chief brought up the Valencian 
'Division of Reserve,' which consisted entirely of the newly 
raised 3rd battalions of the regiments serving with Villacampa 
and Miranda. They had only been under arms a few months, 
were not fully equipped or clothed, and were dreadfully under- 
officered ; for five strong battalions, of over 700 bayonets each, 

1 We are luckily in possession of the exact ' morning state ' of Blake's 
army, which is printed in the rare Spanish government publication of 
1822, Estados de la Organizacion y Fuerza de los Ejercitos Espanoles, 
pp. 184-7. Obispo had 3,400 men, Miranda 4,000, Villacampa 3,350, 
Mahy 4,600 infantry, under Monti jo and Creagh, and 830 horse. This wing 
had 2 horse- and 2 field-batteries, 18 guns. 


there were only 75 officers in all — fifteen per battalion, where 
there should have been thirty, and these were the mere leavings 
of the older units of each regiment, or else newly gazetted 
ensigns. As a fighting force these 3,500 men were nearly 
useless — and Blake put them where they were least likely to 
get into trouble. They were divided into two brigades : 
Brigadier-General Velasco seems to have been in command, 
vice Acuna, who had the division during the autumn. The 
right column was accompanied by the handful of horse belong- 
ing to the ' Expeditionary Force ' — 300 sabres under General 
Loy — and by the second Valencian Cavalry Brigade under 
General Caro, some 800 mounted men more. It was accom- 
panied, like the other wing, by three batteries. Thus, counting 
its gunners and sappers, the right wing had under 10,500 men, 
while the immensely strong left had over 17,000. But it is 
quality rather than mere numbers which counts in war — the 
weak wing fought a good battle against equal strength, and 
looked for a moment as if it might win. The strong wing 
disgraced itself, and was routed by a fourth of its own numbers. 
Suchet had been somewhat troubled by the first news of 
Blake's sudden sally from Valencia, for though he desired a 
battle, wherein success would probably win him the immediate 
surrender of the hard-pressed garrison of Saguntum, yet he did 
not wish that matters should be forced to a crisis in Palombini's 
absence. It was only after the well-timed return of that 
general to his camp, that he welcomed the approach of a decisive 
action. But with Palombini at his disposition again, he was 
eager to fight. 

He had at this moment with him, in the lines before Sagun- 
tum, 35 battalions of foot (of which the three Neapolitan units 
under Compere were mere skeletons, with little over a thousand 
jmen between them), with 15 squadrons of horse and 36 field- 
guns. He left behind him, to maintain the siege-works before 
the fortress, two battalions of the 117th line from Habert's 
U division, and Balathier's Italian brigade, making four battalions 
naore. The weak Neapolitan brigade of Compere, only 1,400 
nen, even with its cavalry included, was placed in support of 
he blockading force, at Gillet and Petres, to watch the road 
rom Segorbe, by which some outlying Spanish detachment 



might possibly attempt to communicate with the garrison of 
Saguntum. This left for the line of battle 26 battalions — six 
of Habert's, eleven of Harispe's, four of Palombini's Italians, and 
five of Robert's reserve brigade. The total amounted to about 
12,000 infantry, while the whole of the cavalry, except the two I 
Neapolitan squadrons, was put in the field to the amount of 
some 1,800 sabres. Counting the gunners of the six batteries of j 
artillery, Suchet's fighting force was not much over 14,000 men. || 
He had left 4,000, besides the gunners of the siege-train and the I 
sappers, to deal with the garrison of Saguntum. This was little 
more than half of Blake's numbers, for the Spanish general — j 
as we have seen — was marching forward with 27,000 men in : 
line. That Suchet gladly took the risk sufficiently shows his I 
opinion of the quality of the greater part of the Valencian army. 
It seems, we must confess, rather hazardous to have left 4,000 ( 
men in the blockading corps, when forces were so unequal. I 
In a similar case Beresford at Albuera took every man out of | 
the trenches, and fought with his whole army. Andriani's j 
garrison was not numerous enough to execute any really I 
dangerous sally in the rear, and was so constricted, in its 1 
precipitous fastness, that it could not easily come down ori 
deploy itself. Perhaps Suchet may have feared, however, that j 
it would take the opportunity of absconding by some postern, i 
if it were not shut in upon all sides. But there were to be| 
moments during the battle when the Marshal would gladly | j 
have had the assistance of two or three more battalions of ii 
steady troops. 

Suchet had chosen for his fighting-ground the narrow plain, | 
south of Saguntum, extending from the sea to the foot of the 
hills of the Sancti Espiritus range — a space of less than threej I 
miles in very flat ground. It was open for the most part, but | 
sprinkled in certain sections with olives and carob-trees, and 
contained one or two slight eminences or mounds, which rose 
above the general surface, though only by a score or two ofj *J 
feet, so that they had a certain command over the adjoining 
flats. The left of the line, nearest to the sea, was formed oij | 
Habert's imperfect division, which, having detached twq 
battalions for the blockade of Saguntum, had only six left—, | 
2,500 bayonets — in line. The right consisted of Harispe's 


division, which was stronger than Habert's, as it had nine 
battalions in line, even after setting aside one regiment (the 44th) 
for a flank-guard. Its force was about 3,600 bayonets. This 
division lay to the right of the road from Murviedro to Valencia. 
The reserve consisted of the Italian brigade (that of Saint Paul), 
which had not been told off for the siege, and of the three French 
cavalry regiments, in all 2,000 bayonets and 1,300 sabres. It 
was drawn up half a mile in rear of Habert and Harispe, ready 
to support either of them. The batteries, horse and foot, 
accompanied their respective divisions. 

We have thus accounted for 10,000 men. The remainder of 
Suchet's fighting force constituted a flank-guard, to prevent 
his line from being turned on its right, the side of the hills. It 
originally consisted of Robert's ' reserve brigade,' five battalions, 
or 2,500 bayonets, and of one cavalry regiment, Schiazzetti's 
Italian dragoons — 450 sabres — with one battery. These troops 
were drawn up on the higher slopes of the Sancti Espiritus hills, 
covering the pass of the same name and the country road which 
goes over it. To these Suchet added, at the last moment, one 
regiment from Harispe's division, the 44th, under the Brigadier 
Chlopiski, who, being senior to Robert, took command of the 

: whole flank-guard. These two battalions — 1,200 men — took 
i post on the hill-slopes to the left of Robert, half-way between 

: I his position and that of Harispe's right. The whole force, 
including the dragoons and the artillery, made about 4,300 men. 
Compere's Neapolitans were too far to their left rear to be 
reckoned an appreciable support, and had their own separate 
task, though they were never called upon to discharge it. The 
ground occupied by Chlopiski's 4,300 men was exceedingly 
strong, and the Marshal hoped that they might be relied upon 
to hold off the turning movement, which he was aware was 
to be made against his inland flank. For he knew that Charles 
O'Donnell was advancing from the direction of Betera, which 
could only mean a projected attack on his own right. Had 
he realized that not only O'Donnell, but also Obispo and 
Mahy's Murcians, in all some 17,000 men, were about to operate 
against Chlopiski, he must surely have strengthened his cover- 
ing force, for the odds would have been impossible if the 
Valencians had made any fight at all. But they did not ! 

D 2 


On the morning of the 25th of October Suchet was ready to 
receive the attack which was impending. He could make out the 
general dispositions of the enemy, and the concentric advance 
of Obispo's, O'Donnell's, and Blake's own men was duly 
reported to him. It was on receiving notice of the heavy 
appearance of the second, or central, hostile column that he 
detached Chlopiski's two battalions to strengthen Robert's 
flank-guard. Presently, about 7 o'clock, the Spaniards came 
within touch ; the left, it would seem, somewhat before the 
right \ the first shots being interchanged between the two 
battalions which Mahy had sent towards Cabezbort and Robert's 
troops. This was only a trifling skirmish, the Spaniards being 
completely checked. But soon after a serious attack was 

The next advance was that of the two Valencian divisions 
under Charles O'Donnell, who were a long way ahead of the 
main body of Mahy's Murcians, their destined reserve. Blake's 
intention was apparently to strike with his left wing first, and to 
force in the French right before his own column delivered its 
blow. Everything depended on the successful action of the 
mass of Valencian and Murcian infantry against the small 
hostile force posted on the slopes of the Sancti Espiritus hills. 

The divisions of Miranda and Villacampa duly descended 
from the lower opposite heights of the Germanels, crossed the 
bottom, and began to mount the opposing slope, Villacampa 
on the left, somewhat in advance, Miranda a little to his right 

1 There are terrible difficulties as to the timing of the battle of Saguntum 
Suchet says that the first engagement was between Obispo's flankin, 
division, coming over the hills on the west, and Robert. Schepeler sayi 
that Obispo arrived too late altogether, and was practically not in th 
fight (p. 472). I think that the explanation is that Suchet took O'Ronan'; 
two battalions for Obispo, because they came from the direction where h« 
was expected. I follow, in my timing of the battle, the very clear narrativi 
of Vacani (v. pp. 440-1), who seems to make it clear that the main fighting oi 
the French right was well over before that in the centre, and long befor< 
that on the left. Schepeler (who rode with Blake that day) also makes i; 
certain that Lardizabal and Zayas were fighting long after Miranda, Villal 
campa,and Mahy had been disposed of. But difficulties remain, which coul< 
only be cleared up if we had a report by Obispo. General Arteche think 
that the action began fairly simultaneously all along the line, and follow 
Schepeler in saying that Obispo was late (xi. p. 174), the very reverse c 
Suchet's statement that he came, and was beaten, too early. 


rear : behind them in support marched San Juan's Valen- 
cian cavalry. Beyond the latter there was a considerable gap 
to the nearest troops of Blake's own column, which had not yet 
come into action. Mahy, whose orders definitely said that he 
was to act as a reserve, and to protect O'Donnell's flank if the 
latter were checked, occupied the Germanels, when the Valen- 
cians had gone on, and was still at the top of his own slope, 
having to his left front the two detached battalions at Cabezbort 
under O'Ronan, when the clash came. Waiting till the two 
Valencian divisions and the cavalry in support were some little 
way up the hill, and had begun to drive in his skirmishers, 
Chlopiski moved down upon them with the whole of his 
modest force — Robert's five battalions in front, to the right of 
the pass and the road, his own two battalions of the 44th to 
its left and somewhat on the flank. Meanwhile Schiazzetti's 
regiment of Italian dragoons charged down the gap between 
the two bodies of infantry. As Villacampa was somewhat 
ahead of Miranda, the first crash fell upon him. Robert's 
infantry drove him without any difficulty right downhill, 
while the Italian dragoons rode at Miranda's battalions on his 
right. Villacampa's men fell into hopeless confusion, but what 
was worse was that Miranda's division, seeing their comrades 
break, gave way before the cavalry without making any 
resistance whatever, apparently before the French 44th had 
even got into touch with them on the flank. This was a dis- 
graceful business : the 7,000 Valencian infantry, and the 
1,700 cavalry in support, were routed in ten minutes by half their 
own numbers — one good cavalry regiment of 450 sabres sufficed 
to upset a whole division of seven battalions — if a single one 
of them had formed a steady square, the Italian horse ought 
to have been driven off with ease ! 

But this was not the end of the affair. San Juan's horse were 
close behind the routed divisions — O'Donnell ordered them up 
to save the wrecks of his infantry : at the same time Mahy 
hurried forward two battalions of his Murcians 1 to support 
jSan Juan, and began to advance with the rest of his division 
down the slope of the Germanels hill. 

After making havoc of the Valencian foot, Chlopiski had 
* Burgos and Tiradores de Cadiz. 


halted his troops for a moment, wishing to be sure that matters 
were going well with the French main body before he com- 
mitted himself to any further enterprise. But the temptation 
to go on was too great, for the routed Spanish troops and their 
supports were weltering together in confusion at the bottom of 
the hill. It is said that the dragoon colonel, Schiazzetti, settled 
the matter for his superior, by charging at San Juan's horse 
the moment that he had got his squadrons re-formed. The 
Valencian cavalry, though it outnumbered the Italians by 
two to one, turned tail at once and bolted, riding over the two 
battalions of Murcian infantry which were in its immediate 
rear, and carrying them away in its panic. Chlopiski then led 
on his seven battalions against the disordered mass in front 
of him, and swept the whole before him. It gave way and fled 
uphill, horse and foot, the Murcian cavalry brigade in reserve 
going off on the same panic-stricken way as the Valencian. It 
was some time before Mahy could get a single regiment to 
stand — but at last he found a sort of rearguard of two battalions 
(one of his own, one of Villacampa's *) which had kept together 
and were still capable of obeying orders. The French were 
now exhausted ; the infantry could not follow in regular forma- 
tion so fast as their enemy fled ; the handful of cavalry was 
dispersed, driving in prisoners on every side. So Mahy and 
O'Donnell ultimately got off, with their men in a horde scattered 
over the country-side — the cavalry leading the stampede and 
the two rallied battalions bringing up the rear 2 . The Spanish i 
left wing lost over 2,000 prisoners, mainly from Miranda's i 
division, but only some 400 killed and wounded ; several guns i 
from the divisional batteries were of course lost. All this was 
over so early in the day that the fighting on Blake's right wing 
was at its hottest just when the wrecks of his left were disap- 
pearing over the hills. Obispo, who came up too late to 
help, 3 and the two detached battalions under O'Ronan got off 
separately, more towards the north, retiring on Naquera. 
The tale of this part of the battle of Saguntum is lamentable. 

1 Cuenca and Molina. 

2 O'Ronan' s two battalions went off in a separate direction, unpursued, 
and joined Obispo, not being in the rout. 

3 See above, page 36. 

1811] MAHY'S REPORT 39 

There is no record so bad in the whole war : even the Gebora 
was a well-contested fight compared with this — and at Belchite 
the army that fled so easily gave way before numbers equal or 
superior to its own, not inferior in the proportion of one to 
three. The fact was that the Valencian troops had a long 
record of disasters behind them, were thoroughly demoralized, 
and could not be trusted for one moment, and that the Mer- 
cians (as Mahy confessed) were not much better. The defeat 
was rendered more shameful by the fact that the smaller half 
of Blake's Army, the ' Expeditionary Force,' was at the same 
moment making head in good style against numbers rather 
larger than its own, and seemed for a moment about to achieve 
a splendid success. If the Spanish left, 17,000 strong, could 
have 4 contained ' half its own strength, if it could have kept 
8,000 instead of 4,000 French employed for one hour, Blake 
might have relieved Saguntum and driven off Suchet. But the 
story is disgraceful. Mahy wrote next morning to Blake, ' I 
must tell you, with my usual bluntness, that you had better 
sell the horses of this cavalry, and draft the men into the 
infantry. I could not have believed in the possibility of such 
conduct, if I had not seen it with my own eyes take place and 
cost us so much 1 .' Blake actually gave orders for one hussar 
regiment (a Murcian one) to be deprived of its horses and 
drafted out. But did the infantry behave much better ? 

We may now turn to a less depressing narrative, the story 
of the operations of Blake's own wing. The Commander-in- 
Chief, as it will be remembered, had with him the ' Expe- 
ditionary Divisions,' the Valencian Reserve Division, and Loy's 
and Caro's 1,100 cavalry. He took post himself on the height 
called El Puig, with one brigade of the Valencians, to the 
south of the ravine of the Picador, which crosses the plain in 
a diagonal direction. The rest of the troops went forward 
in two columns : Zayas formed the right near the sea ; his 
flank was covered by a squadron of gunboats, which advanced 
parallel with him, as near the shore as their draught permitted. 
He was ordered to push on and get, if possible, round Suchet's 
flank, where Habert's line was c refused,' because of the guns of 
; the flotilla, whose fire the French wished to avoid. If successful 
1 Quoted in Arteche, xi. p. 178. 


Zayas was to try to communicate with the garrison of Sagun- 
tum. Further inland Lardizabal's division, accompanied by 
the 1,100 cavalry, and followed by the other brigade of the Valen- 
cian reserve, crossed the Picador at the bridge on the chaussee, 
and deployed in the plain, directly opposite Harispe's division. 
The whole force was about equal to the French opposed to it. 

The two - Expeditionary Divisions ' went forward in good 
order and with great confidence : Suchet remarks in his 
Memoires that in all his previous campaigns he had never seen 
Spanish troops advance with such resolution or in such good 
order \ Zayas, on the sea-flank, became immediately engaged 
with Habert, before the village of Puzzol, in a heavy fight, with 
exactly equal numbers — each had about 2,500 men. Both 
sides lost heavily, and neither had any advantage : Suchet had 
ordered Habert not to take the offensive till matters were 
settled in the centre, but the defensive proved costly, and the 
Spaniards pushed on — these were the same battalions which 
had behaved so well on the hill of Albuera — Irlanda, Patria, and 
the Spanish and Walloon Guards. 

Further to the left Lardizabal had deployed, after crossing 
the ravine, with his two weak brigades in line ; the Valencian 
reserve remained behind near the bridge, but Loy's and Caro's 
cavalry came forward on the right in support. Opposite the front 
brigade (Prieto's) was a long low mound, the last outlying spur 
of the Sancti Espiritus range. This was soon seen by both sides to 
be a point of vantage — the army that could occupy it would have 
a good artillery position commanding the hostile line. Suchet; 
ordered up Harispe's right battalions to seize it, and galloped 
thither in person at the head of his escort of fifty hussars. 
But the Spaniards had also marked it, and the Marshal had 
hardly reached its top when he found Prieto's skirmishers: 
swarming up the slope. He had to retire, and rode back to 
bring up his infantry ; but, by the time that they had come 
forward, the enemy had formed a hasty line of battle along tl 
mound, with a battery in its centre. Suchet had therefore tc 
attack — which he did in full force, the four battalions of the 
7th Line forming a heavy column in the centre, while those oi 
the 116th and the 3rd of the Vistula deployed on each side 
1 Mimoires, ii. p. 182. 



somewhat to the rear — a clear instance of the use of the ordre 
mixte which Napoleon loved. The left flank was covered by two 
squadrons of the 4th Hussars and one of the 13th Cuirassiers, 
brought out from the reserve. 

This was bringing 3,600 bayonets to bear against 1,500, for 
Prieto's brigade counted no more upon the mound. The attack 
was successful, but not without severe loss : General Paris, 
leading on the 7th regiment, was wounded, as were both his 
aides-de-camp, and Harispe's horse was killed under him ; the 
Spanish artillery fire had been deadly. When the mound was 
stormed, the Spanish infantry were forced back, but by no 
means in disorder. They formed up again not far from its foot, 
and Lardizabal brought up his second brigade to support his 
first, placed two batteries in line, and stood to fight again. 
Suchet, having re-formed Harispe's men, found that he had 
before him a second combat on the flat ground. The infantry 
>n both sides were heavily engaged, and six French guns had 
been brought forward to enfilade Lardizabal's right, when 
a new turn was given to the battle. The Spanish general 
ordered Loy's and Caro's 1,100 cavalry to charge in mass upon 
the three squadrons of hussars and cuirassiers which covered 
Harispe's left. The move was an unexpected one, and was 
concealed for some time by scattered carob-trees : the attack 
was well delivered, and the French horse, outnumbered by more 
than two to one, were completely routed and fled in disorder. 
Loy then wheeled in upon the French flank, captured three 
guns of the battery there placed, and nearly broke the 116th 
of the Line, which had only just time to fall back and form 
itself en potence to the rest of the division. The remainder 
of the Spanish cavalry pursued the retreating hussars. 

The moment looked black for the Marshal : he himself 
confesses in his Memoires that if Harispe's infantry had given 
way the battle might have been lost \ But he had still a reserve : 
he sent back orders to Palombini to bring up Saint Paul's four 
Italian battalions into the gap, and rode himself to the two 
squadrons of the 13th Cuirassiers which had not yet advanced 
into the fight. They were only 350 sabres, but the regiment 
was a fine one, and had won, at Margalef and other fields, a great 
1 Mimoires, ii. p. 185. 


confidence in its ability to face long odds. They were launched 
straight at the victorious Spanish cavalry, whose main body 
was advancing in great disorder, and with its line broken by the 
groves of carob-trees, while the remainder had turned inward 
against the French infantry. The cuirassiers went straight 
through the squadrons opposed to them, and swept them away : 
whereupon even those units of the Spanish horse which had not 
been attacked wheeled round, and retreated hastily toward the 
Picador ravine and its bridge. The cuirassiers followed, up- 
setting everything in their front, and only halted on the edge 
of the ravine, where they were checked by the fire of the battery 
attached to the Valencian reserve, and the skirmishers of that 
body, who had lined the farther edge of the depression \ Both 
the Spanish brigadiers, Loy and Caro, had behaved very 
gallantly ; both were severely wounded, while trying to rally 
their men, and were left on the field as prisoners. 

The defeat of the Spanish horse settled the day, which had 
for a moment looked doubtful. At the sight of the French 
hussars breaking, and the advance of their own line, the 
garrison of Saguntum, who had the whole field in view from 
their lofty perch, had lined their walls, cheering and waving 
their shakos in the air — despite of the shells from the siege- 
batteries which continued to play upon them. The cheers died 
down as the changed fortunes of the day became visible, and 
hearts sank in the fortress. But the fighting was not yet 

The rout of Loy's and Caro's horse had not directly affected 
Lardizabal's infantry, for the victorious cuirassiers had galloped 

1 This account of the charge of the cuirassiers comes from the Memoires of 
Colonel de Gonneville, who commanded their leading squadron. There is 
a curious point to be settled here. Marshal Suchet says (Memoires, ii. p. 185) 
that he rode in person to the head of the regiment, and harangued 
it shortly on Margalef and other ancient glories, before bidding it charge. 
While speaking he was struck by a spent ball on the shoulder. But 
de Gonneville (who had read Suchet's book, as he quotes it in other places) 
says distinctly (p. 208 of his Souvenirs militaires) that he received no 
orders, and charged on his own responsibility. ' N'ayant la d'ordre a 
recevoir de personne, mais comprenant la necessite d'arreter cette masse 
de cavalerie qui arrivait a nous, &c. . . . je donnai le signal.' Was Suchet 
romancing about his little speech ? Or was de Gonneville, who wrote his 
Mtmoires forty years later, oblivious ? Either hypothesis is difficult. 



French n^2 da 
Spanish cb da 


13. Y^ OaJ* sWe, Carrol, iqitf 


straight before them after the fugitives, though they had 
also ridden over and captured a Spanish battery on the right 
of the line of deployed battalions. The decisive blow in this 
quarter was given by Saint Paul's Italians, who, issuing from 
olive groves behind Harispe's left, came in upon the unpro- 
tected flank of Lardizabal's troops, which they rolled up, 
driving away at the same time a few squadrons which had not 
been affected by the charge of the cuirassiers. These last rode 
in among their own infantry, which was already hotly engaged 
with Harispe's battalions, and carried confusion down the line. 
The division, which had hitherto fought most gallantly, gave 
way, and retired in confusion towards the bridge over the 
Picador, and the Cartuja where Lardizabal hoped to sustain 
himself by means of the battery and the Valencian reserve 
battalions which he left there. 

Meanwhile Blake, from the summit of the knoll of El Puig, 
had witnessed with impotent grief the rout of his right centre. 
He had placed himself so far to the rear that no orders which 
he sent reached Lardizabal in time, and the reserve which he had 
kept under his own hand, three raw Valencian battalions and 
a battery, would have been too weak to save the day, even if 
it had not been so far — two miles — from the central focus of the 
fight as to make its arrival in time quite impossible. The 
General, from the moment that he had given the original order 
to advance, exercised no influence whatever on the operations ; 
one of his staff says that he sat on his horse in blank and stupid 
amazement at the rout, and that some of those who watched 
him thought him wanting in personal courage no less than in 
decision 1 . But at last he roused himself to issue orders for the 
retreat of his broken left and centre towards Valencia, and for 
the instant withdrawal of his still intact right wing. 

Here Zayas's division stood in a most difficult place, for 
though it had been contending on equal terms with Habert's in 
front of the village of Puzzol, it is one thing to keep up a stand- 
ing fight, and another to withdraw from it with a victorious 
enemy pushing in upon the flank. However, Zayas ordered his 
battalions back, and though pressed by Habert, brought them 
in good order across the ravine and back to the height of El Puig r 
1 Schepeler, p. 473. 


where Blake stood waiting him with his small reserve. Only- 
one corps, the Walloon Guards, had thrown itself into the 
houses of Puzzol, could not be extracted from them in time, 
and was surrounded and captured. But this small disaster did 
much to save the rest of the division, for so many of the French 
closed in upon the village, where the Walloons made a good 
stand, that the pursuit was not so hotly pushed as it might have 
been. If Suchet could have pressed in upon Blake before Zayas 
joined him, the whole Spanish right column might have been 
completely cut off from its retreat. But the Marshal required 
some leisure to rearrange his line, after routing Lardizabal ; 
and by the time that he had sent off the rallied 4th Hussars to 
help Chlopiski gather in prisoners, and had turned the Italians 
aside to march against Blake, with Harispe in support, nearly 
two hours had gone by, and the Spanish right, molested only 
by Habert, was drawing off towards safety. Following the 
road along the sea-shore, it reached the suburbs of Valencia 
without any further loss. 

Not so the unfortunate remnant of Lardizabal's troops. 
They had halted at the Cartuja, behind the Picador, while their 
general strove to rally them on the reserve there left. This 
delay, though soldier-like and proper, enabled Suchet to catch 
them up : he charged them with his last fresh regiment, the 
24th Dragoons, which had been kept in hand, apparently 
behind Habert's position, till the retreat of the Spanish right 
began. Then, attacking along the high-road, these squadrons 
broke in upon the half-rallied troops, swept them away, and 
captured two guns put in battery across the chaussee, and badly 
supported by the Valencian reserve battalions. Lardizabal's 
column went off in great disorder, and was hunted as far as 
the Caraixet stream, losing many prisoners to the dragoons, 
as well as four flags. 

So ended the day ; the loss of the Spaniards was not very 
heavy in killed and wounded — about 1,000 it is said, mainly in 
Lardizabal's and Zayas's divisions — for the others did not 
stand to fight. But of prisoners they lost 4,641, including 
230 officers and the two wounded cavalry brigadiers. Miranda's 
division contributed the largest proportion to the captives, 
though Zayas lost 400 men of the Walloon battalion, and 


Lardizabal a still greater number out of his weak division of 
3,000 bayonets \ Twelve guns were left behind, seven cap- 
tured in the hard fighting in the right centre, five from O'Don- 
nell's easily-routed divisions. The French casualties are given 
by Suchet at about 130 killed and 590 wounded — probably an 
understatement, as the regimental returns show 55 officers hit, 
which at the ordinary rate of casualties should imply over 
1,000 rank and file disabled. As a commentary on the fighting, 
it may be remarked that Chlopiski and Robert, in dealing with 
Obispo, O'Donnell, and Mahy, had only 7 officers hors de 
combat, while Harispe and Habert lost 41 in the real fight with 
Zayas and Lardizabal 2 . 

The actual losses in action were not the worst part of the 
battle of Saguntum — the real disaster was the plain demonstra- 
tion that the Valencian troops could not stand even against very 
inferior numbers. It was to no purpose that the two gallant 
4 Expeditionary Divisions ' had sacrificed themselves, and lost 
one man in three out of their small force of 5,500 men in hard 
fighting. They had been betrayed by their worthless associates 
on the left. Blake's generalship had not been good — he dis- 
persed his columns in the most reckless way, and kept no 
sufficient reserves — but with the odds in his favour of 27,000 
men to 14,000, he ought yet to have won, if the larger half of his 
army had consented to fight. They did not : with such troops 
no more could be hoped from further battles in the open field — 
whatever the numerical odds might be. They could at most 
be utilized behind walls and entrenchments, for purely passive 
defence. And this, as we shall see, was the deduction that their 
general made from the unhappy events of October 25. 

Next morning Suchet sent in a summons to the garrison of 
Saguntum, and the governor, Andriani, after short haggling 
for terms, surrendered. He is not to be blamed : his garrison 
had seen the rout of Blake's army with their own eyes, and 
knew that there was no more hope for them. They were, as 

1 2nd of Badajoz (two battalions) was almost exterminated, losing 
17 officers, 21 sergeants, and 500 men, * mostly prisoners,' out of 800 present. 
See its history in the Conde de Clonard's great work on the Spanish army. 
The 16th Line (three battalions) alone, in fighting Zayas, lost just 
double as many officers as the seven battalions of Chlopiski and Robert 
in their engagement with Mahy, Miranda, and Villacampa ! 


we have seen, mainly raw troops, and their good bearing up j 
to this moment, rather than their demoralization after the | 
battle, should provoke notice. The French approaches were , 
by this time within a few yards of the Dos Mayo redoubt and ! 
its hastily patched breaches. The artillery fire of the besiegers 
was rapidly levelling the whole work, and the next storm, made ! 
on a wide front of shattered curtain, must have succeeded. It | 
is true that a governor of the type of Alvarez of Gerona would 
then have held out for some time in the castle of San Fernando, j 
But Andriani's troops were not like those of Alvarez, and he 
himself was a good soldier, but not a fanatical genius. Two i 
thousand three hundred prisoners marched out on the 26th, 
leaving not quite 200 men in hospital behind them. The 
17 guns of the fortress were many of them damaged, and the 
store of shot and shell was very low, though there were plenty 
of infantry cartridges left \ 

1 For details see Belmas, iv. pp. 140-3. 



As the result of the disastrous battle of Saguntum Blake had 
lost the fortress which had served him so well as an outwork : 
while his field army was much decreased in numbers, and still 
more in self-confidence. It was obviously impossible that he 
should ever again attempt to take the offensive with it. But 
he was still in possession of Valencia and all its resources, and 
his carefully fortified lines along the Guadalaviar were so 
strong that even a defeated army could make some stand 
behind them. He had still, after all his losses, more than 
22,000 men under arms 1 . Yet it is doubtful whether a reso- 
lute push on the part of the enemy would not have dislodged 
him, for more than half his army was in a state of complete 

Suchet, however, had made up his mind not to strike at once ; 
and when a few days had passed, and the Spaniards had been 
granted time to settle down into the lines, it would undoubtedly 
have been hazardous to attack them with the very modest 
numbers that the Army of Aragon had still in line. The chance 
would have been to press the pursuit hard, on the very day after 
the battle. But when the Marshal had counted up his losses in 
the trenches and the field, had deducted a small garrison for 
Saguntum, and had detached a brigade to escort to Tortosa his 
numerous prisoners, he thought himself too weak for a decisive 
blow. He would not have had 15,000 men in hand, unless he 
should call up Ficatier's brigade from Segorbe and Oropesa, and 
this he did not want to do, as he was entirely dependent for 

1 A battalion or two left in Valencia, when the rest of the army went out 
to deliver Saguntum, must be added to the 20,000 men who came back from 
the battle. These corps were 2nd of Leon of Lardizabal's division, and 
one battalion of Savoya belonging to Miranda. 


food and stores on the line of communication which Ficatier 
was guarding. Accordingly he resolved to defer his next blow 
at Blake, till he should have summoned from Aragon Severoli's 
division, and Reille's too, if the Emperor would give him leave 
to requisition that force. He could not utilize Reille without 
that leave ; but Severoli's troops belonged to his own army, 
and were at his disposition, if he should judge it possible to 
draw them southward without endangering the safety of 
Aragon. This he was prepared to do, if a sufficient garrison for 
that province could be provided from another source. And the 
only obvious source was the Army of the North : if the Emperor 
would consent to order Dorsenne to find troops to make Sara- 
gossa and the line of the Ebro secure, it would not be over rash 
to borrow both Severoli and Reille for operations against 
Valencia. But it was clear that it would take some weeks 
for the permission to be sent from Paris, and for the troops 
of the Army of the North to be moved, when and if the 
permission was granted. We shall see, as a matter of fact, 
that it was not till the end of December, two full months 
after the battle of Saguntum, that the two divisions were 
collected on the desired ground, and the final blow against 
Blake was delivered. 

Meanwhile Suchet could do no more than place his divisions 
in the most favourable position for making the advance that 
would only be possible when Severoli, and perhaps Reille also, 
should arrive. With this object he pushed them forward on 
November 3 to the line of the Guadalaviar, close in front of 
Blake's long series of entrenchments. Harispe on the right 
advanced to Paterna, Habert on the left to the close neighbour- 
hood of Valencia. He drove the Spanish outposts from the 
outlying suburb of Serranos, which lay beyond the lines and 
on the north side of the river, and also from the Grao, or port 
and mole which forms the outlet of Valencia to the sea. It was 
most unlucky for Blake, in the end, that his natural line of 
communication with the Mediterranean and the English fleet 
lay north of the Guadalaviar, and outside his line of fortifications. 
Indeed it looks as if there was a cardinal fault in the planning 
of the defences when the Grao was left outside them, for though 
rather remote from the city (two miles) it would be of inestimable 


importance, supposing that the French were to succeed in 
crossing the Guadalaviar and investing Valencia. With the 
port safe, the defenders could receive succour and supplies to 
any extent, and if finally reduced to extremity could retreat 
by sea. Some of the energy which had been expended in 
throwing up the immense fortified camp which embraced all 
the southern suburbs, and in lining the river westward with 
batteries, might well have been diverted to the fortification of 
the Grao and its connexion with the works of the city. But 
probably Blake, in his looking forward to the possible events 
of the future, did not contemplate among the contingencies to 
be faced that of his being shut up with the greater part of his 
army within the walls of Valencia. If he were forced from the 
lines of the Guadalaviar, he must have intended to fall back 
inland or southward, and not to allow himself to be surrounded 
in the capital. Otherwise it would have been absolutely insane 
for him to leave unfortified, and abandon without a struggle, 
Valencia's sole outlet to the sea. 

Meanwhile finding himself for week after week unassailed in 
his lines, Blake had to take stock of his position, and see if 
there was anything that he could do to avert the attack which 
must come one day, and which would obviously be formidable. 
For it had become known to him, ere long, that Severoli's 
division, and probably other troops, were working in towards 
Valencia, and would certainly join Suchet before the winter was 
over. The only expedients of which Blake made use were to 
keep masses of men continuously at work strengthening his 
lines, and to renew the attempt, which he had made fruitlessly 
in September, for loosing Suchet's hold on Valencia by launching 
against his rear the irregulars of Aragon — the bands of the 
Empecinado, Duran, and the minor chiefs. To add some 
solidity to their hordes he detached from his army the Conde 
de Monti jo, with one of the two brigades which Mahy had 
brought from Murcia. This turbulent nobleman, more noted 
for his intrigues than for his fighting power, was given a 
general command over all the bands, and marched to join them 
with three battalions 1 and a few guns — the latter provision 

One battalion each, of Badajoz, Burgos, and Tiradores de Cuenca — 
i under 2,000 men in all. 

' OMAN. V tti 


was intended to obviate the difficulty which the irregulars had I 
experienced in October from their want of artillery. Blake j 
intended to call up Freire from Murcia with another draft from I 
the depleted ' Third Army,' whose best troops Mahy had ; 
already led to Valencia. But, as we shall see, this detachment 
was presently distracted to another quarter, and never joined j 
the main force. The nominal strength of the mass of troops j 
along the Guadalaviar was, however, increased by degrees, owing j 
to the filling of the ranks of the divisions cut up at Sagun- 1 
turn by men from the half -trained reserve and depots. Miranda's j 
division in particular, which had lost so many prisoners in the j 
battle, was completed to more than its original strength by 
absorbing three raw ' third battalions ' from the ' Reserve Divi- 1 
sion,' besides other drafts 1 . Blake also endeavoured to make ; 
use of ' urban guards ' and other levies of irregular organization 
and more than doubtful value : the population in the north 
of the kingdom, behind Suchet's lines, were invited to form 
guerrillero bands : but the Valencians never showed the zeal 
or energy of the Catalans and Aragonese. The bands thati 
appeared were few in numbers, and accomplished nothing: 
of note. Indeed, it appears that the patriotic spirit of the I 
province had run low. Mahy, in a letter to Blake of this month, i 
complains bitterly that the peasantry refuse to convey letters j 
for him, or even to give him information as to the position and ; 
movements of the French, while he knew that hundreds ofi 
them were visiting Suchet's camps daily in friendly fashion 2 .] 
It appears that the people were sick of the war, and discon- 
tented with Blake, whose conduct to the local authorities was 
even more injurious to him than the uniform failure of all his 
military operations. 

The diversion to be conducted by Monti jo and the irregulars 
in Aragon constituted the only real hope of salvation for Blake! 
and the city of Valencia. But it was, we may say, doomed, 
from the first to failure, unless some favourable chance should' 
intervene. A couple of thousand regulars, with the aid ofj 
guerrillero bands, hard to assemble, and not mustering at any 

1 Four thousand strong at Saguntum, it surrendered on January 8th, 
5,513 strong. Of its quality, the less said the better. 

2 Mahy to Blake quoted at length in Arteche, xi. p. 196, footnote. 


time more than 6,000 or 7,000 men collected on one spot, were 
sent to paralyse the movements of more than 20,000 French. 
For to that figure Reille's and Severoli's divisions, together 
with the original garrison left in Aragon under Musnier, most 
certainly amounted. It cannot be denied that the diversion 
gave much trouble to the enemy, but it never prevented him 
from executing any operation of primary importance. On 
October 27th the Italian general, Mazzuchelli, with one of 
Severoli's brigades, drove off the Empecinado, and relieved the 
long-besieged garrison of Molina, which he brought off, aban- 
doning the castle. But as he was returning to his chief, who 
then lay at Daroca, the Empecinado fell on his marching column 
in the Pass of Cubillejo, and inflicted severe damage upon it \ 
Severoli then sent out a second column of 800 men, to relieve 
Almunia, on the road to Saragossa, another outlying garrison. 
But Duran surprised and scattered this party just as it reached 
its destination, and then captured the fort with its garrison of 
140 men (October 31). This provoked the enemy to march 
against him in force, whereupon, after fighting an obstinate 
engagement with Mazzuchelli near Almunia, in which the 
Italians lost 220 men, he turned sideways, and descended upon 
Daroca, which his adversary had left weakly manned ; he 
stormed the town and laid siege to the fort. This brought down 
upon him Pannetier, with one of Reille's brigades : thereupon, 
wisely refusing to fight, Duran went up into the mountains of 
Molina (November 1811). 

Here he was joined some weeks later by the regular brigade 
under the Conde de Monti jo, which Blake had sent up from 
Valencia. This little detachment had threaded its way among 
Reille's columns, and had narrowly escaped destruction near 
Albarracin. The Conde, assuming chief command at the high- 
lying village of Mulmarcos, informed the Aragonese guerrilleros 
that something desperate must be done, to relieve the pressure 
on Valencia ; and after sending for the Empecinado, who was 
now beyond the mountains, in the province of Guadalajara, 
marched on Calatayud. Unfortunately the Partida chiefs, 
accustomed to conduct their expeditions on their own responsi- 
bility, viewed the advent of Monti jo, a stranger of no great 
1 For details see Vacani, v. pp. 470-1. 
E 2 


military reputation, with jealousy and dislike. Duran and the 
Conde having reached Ateca near Calatayud, committed 
themselves to a serious combat with a column of 2,000 men 
from its garrison, having every expectation of being succoured 
by the Empecinado, who had reached their neighbourhood. 
He did not appear, however, and they were repulsed. There- 
upon the Spaniards parted, the Conde and the regulars retiring 
to Torrehermosa, Duran to Deza, in the province of Soria. 
The Empecinado, when all was over, sent in a letter in which 
he explained that he had held off i because his officers and 
soldiers had no confidence save in their own chief : ' but it was 
clear that he himself wrecked the expedition out of self-willed 

The month of December was now far advanced, and nothing 
effective had been done to help Blake. The Aragonese bands 
had cost Reille and Severoli many toilsome marches, and had 
inflicted on them appreciable losses — Severoli's division was 
now 2,000 men weaker than it had been in September. But 
they had failed entirely to stop the larger movements of the 
enemy, who was able to move wherever he pleased with 
a column of 3,000 men, though any lesser force was always in 
danger of being harried or even destroyed. When Suchet 
determined that he would again risk trouble in his rear, and 
would bring both the divisions from the Ebro down to Valencia, 
no one could prevent him from doing so. It is true that 
Severoli and Reille were leaving behind them a country-side 
still infested by an active and obstinate enemy. But if their 
generalissimo judged that he was prepared to take this risk, 
and was determined to crush Blake before he completed the 
subjugation of Upper Aragon, there was nothing that could 
hinder him from carrying out his intention. By the middle of 
December Severoli was on his way to the Guadalaviar by way 
of Teruel, and Reille followed not far behind, though one of 
his brigades (Bourke's) had been distracted, by being ordered 
to conduct the prisoners from Saguntum to the French frontier, 
and the other (Pannetier's) had been drawn so far northward in 
hunting Montijo and Duran that it was several marches behind 
the leading columns. 

It was not, however, Reille and Severoli alone who were set 


in motion for the ruin of Blake and Valencia. Nor was Suchet's 
mind the final controlling force of the operations which were 
to spread all over eastern Spain in the months of December 
1811 and January 1812. The Emperor, when he hurried the 
Army of Aragon forward in September, had explained that 
this was the crucial point of the war, and repeated in November 
that ' l'important, dans ce moment, est la prise de Valence.' 
Portugal could wait — Wellington, with 18,000 men sick, and 
forced to remain on the defensive, — was a negligible quantity 
during the winter : he should be dealt with in the spring by 
a general combination of all the French armies \ Acting on 
this comfortable but erroneous hypothesis, Napoleon deter- 
mined to shift eastward and southward not only Reille and 
Severoli, but other troops from the armies which were directly 
or indirectly opposed to Wellington, so as to alter for a time 
the general balance of forces on the Portuguese side of the 
Peninsula. On October 18th, before the battle of Saguntum 
had been fought and won, Berthier had been directed to write 
to Marmont that, for the support of the invasion of Valencia, 
King Joseph and the Army of the Centre would be ordered to 
send troops to Cuenca, to take Blake in the rear. In conse- 
quence the Army of Portugal must c facilitate the task of the 
King,' i.e. find detachments to occupy those parts of New 
Castile from which Joseph would have to withdraw the normal 
garrison for his expedition to Cuenca. But presently it became 
evident that the Army of the Centre would have great difficulty 
in providing a column strong enough to make this diversion, 
even if it were relieved in La Mancha, or the province of Toledo, 
by units belonging to Marmont. Napoleon then made the 
all-important determination to borrow troops from the Army 
of Portugal for the Valencian expedition. By this time he 
knew of the battle of Saguntum, and had received Suchet's 
appeals for reinforcements. His dispatch to Marmont of 
November 20th informs the Marshal that he must provide 
a division of 6,000 men of all arms, to join the disposable force 
which King Joseph can spare for the assistance of Suchet. The 
still more important dispatch of the next day varied the orders 

1 Correspondance de Napokon, 18,267, and cf. pp. 590-2 of vol. iv of 
this work. 


in an essential detail, by saying that the Marshal must send 
not 'a detachment of 6,000 men ' but such a force as, united to 
the column supplied by King Joseph, would provide a total of 
12,000 men for the diversion.' And it was added that, in addition, 
the Army of Portugal would have to find 3,000 or 4,000 men 
more, to keep up the communications of the expeditionary force 
with its base in New Castile. The detachment might be made 
without any fear of adverse consequences, since Wellington had 
20,000 men in hospital, and barely as many in a state to take 
the field, so no risk would be run in depleting the force opposed 
to him \ Napoleon, conveniently ignoring the exact wording 
of his own dispatch, reproached Marmont (when evil results 
had followed) for having detached ' an army corps and thirty 
guns ' for the diversion, instead of 4 a light flying column 2 .' But 
it will be seen that the Marshal was literally obeying the orders 
given him when he moved 12,000 men towards Valencia. For 
the Army of the Centre provided not much more than 3,000 men 
under General d'Armagnac for the Cuenca expedition 3 , and 
Marmont had, therefore, to find 9,000 men to bring it up to the 
strength which the Emperor prescribed, as well as the 3,000- 
4,000 men to cover the line of communications. 

All these dispatches reached Marmont's head-quarters at 
Plasencia with the tardiness that was normal in Spain, where 
officers bearing orders had to be escorted by detachments many 
hundreds strong, supposing that their certain arrival at their 
destination was desired. If they travelled rapidly and unes- 
corted, they became the inevitable prey of the guerrilleros. 
The dispatch of October 18th, saying that Marmont must replace 
King Joseph's garrisons in La Mancha, came to hand on 
November 11, and the Marshal accordingly directed Foy's 
division, then at Toledo, to break itself up and occupy the 

^See these dispatches printed in full in Marmont's Mimoires, iv. 
pp. 256-8. This wording is most important and should be studied with 
care. Note that Wellington's sick have gone up from 18,000 to 20,000 
in twenty- four hours, to oblige the Emperor. 

2 Berthier to Marmont, January 23, 1812. Printed in the latter' s 
Mimoires, iv. pp. 297-9. 

3 Though King Joseph had said that if Marmont took over the whole of 
La Mancha, he could then reinforce d'Armagnac up to 8,000 men. This he 
never really accomplished (Joseph to Berthier, Nov. 26). 


various posts which the German division of the Army of the 
Centre had been holding. Foy set out to fulfil these orders 
on November 22. 

The Emperor's second and third dispatches, those of Novem- 
ber 20-21st, turned up on December 13th \ and Marmont found 
himself under orders to find 9,000 men for the Cuenca expedition, 
— since d'Armagnac had only 3,000 men to contribute — and in 
addition 3,000-4,000 more for the line of communications. 
Now the Marshal was as fully convinced as his master that 
Wellington was not in a condition to move, or to do any serious 
harm, and under this impression, and being probably stirred 
(as Napoleon afterwards remarked) 2 by the desire to increase 
his own reputation by a dashing feat of arms, he resolved to 
take charge of the expedition in person. He ordered that the 
divisions of Foy and Sarrut — both weak units, the one of eight, 
the other of nine battalions 3 — and Montbrun's light cavalry 
should prepare to march under his own charge to join d'Ar- 
magnac, and move on Valencia. Another division should come 
into La Mancha to take up the cantonments evacuated by Foy, 
and keep over the line of communications. Clausel should be 
left in charge of the remainder of the army, and observe 

This scheme was never carried out, for on December 20 
Marmont received another dispatch, ordering him to transfer 
his head-quarters to Valladolid, and to move a large part of his 
army into Old Castile. Of this more hereafter. But being thus 
prevented (for his own good fortune as it turned out) from going 
on the expedition, he gave over Foy's and Sarrut's divisions 
to Montbrun, and bade him execute the diversion. He himself 
went, as ordered, to Valladolid. If he had received the last 
dispatch a little later, or had started a little earlier, he would 
have been put in the ignominious position of being absent 
from his own point of danger, when Wellington suddenly struck 
at Ciudad Rodrigo in the early days of January. 

1 Date fixed by Marmont's letter to Berthier of Feb. 6. 

2 ' Sa Majeste (writes Berthier) pense que, dans cette circonstance, vous 
avez plus calcule votre gloire personnelle que le bien de son service,' 
Jan. 23, letter quoted above on the last page. 

3 Each division had about 4,000 or 4,500 men : the light cavalry about 
1,700, so the whole would have made about 10,000 sabres and bayonets. 


Montbrun, his substitute, had drawn together his forces in La 
Mancha by the 29th of December, but receiving fromd'Armagnac, 
who was already on the move with 3,000 men, the assurance 
that the road fromCuenca to Valencia was practically impassable 
at midwinter, and that he could certainly get no guns along it, 
he resolved to take another route towards the scene of active 
operations. Accordingly he set out to march by the road 
San Clemente, Chinchilla, Almanza, which runs across the 
upland plain of La Mancha and Northern Murcia, and does not 
cross rough ground till it nears the descent to the sea-coast on 
the borders of Valencia. The column did not leave San Clemente 
and El Probencio till January 2, and (as we shall see) was too 
late to help Suchet, who had brought matters to a head long 
before it drew near him. 

Meanwhile d'Armagnac, though his force was trifling \ had 
been of far greater use. He had reoccupied Cuenca, but 
finding (as he had informed Montbrun) that the roads in that 
direction were impracticable, had swerved southward, avoiding 
the mountains, and getting to Tarazona in La Mancha, marched 
towards the passes of the Cabriel River, and the road on to 
Valencia by way of Requena. His approach being reported to 
Blake, who had no troops in this direction save two battalions 
under Bassecourt, the Captain-General was seized with 
a natural disquietude as to his rear, for he had no accurate 
knowledge of the French strength. Wherefore he directed 
General Freire, with the succours which he had been intending 
to draw up from Murcia, to abandon the idea of reinforcing the 
main army, and to throw himself between d'Armagnac and 
Valencia [November 20]. The French general, beating the 
country on all sides, and thrusting before him Bassecourt's 
small force and the local guerrilleros, marched as far as Yniesta, 
and forced the passage of the Cabriel at Valdocanas, but finding 
that he had got far away from Montbrun, who did not march 
till many days after he himself had started, and being informed 
that Freire, with a very large force, was coming in upon his 

1 Apparently four or five battalions of the German division gathered 
from La Mancha, and a brigade of dragoons. Joseph calls it in his Corre- 
spondance 3,000 men, when describing this operation (Joseph to Berthier, 
Nov. 12, 1811). 


rear, he stopped before reaching Requena and turned back 
towards La Mancha \ He had succeeded, however, in prevent- 
ing Freire from reinforcing Valencia, and the Murcian succours 
never got near to Blake. He even for a time distracted troops 
from the main Spanish army, for Zayas was sent for some days 
to Requena, and only returned just in time for the operations 
that began on December 25th. The net outcome, therefore, 
of Montbrun's and d'Armagnac's operations was simply to 
distract Freire's division from Valencia at the critical moment — 
an appreciable but not a decisive result. 

Meanwhile Suchet found himself able to deliver his decisive 
blow on the Guadalaviar. By his orders Severoli and Reille had 
drawn southward by way of Teruel, deliberately abandoning 
most of Aragon to the mercy of the insurgent bands ; for 
though Caffarelli had moved some battalions of the Army of 
the North to Saragossa and the posts along the Ebro, the rest 
of the province was left most inadequately guarded by the 
small force that had originally been committed to Musnier's 
charge, when first Suchet marched on Valencia. Musnier 
to himself accompanied Severoli's division, leaving his detach- 
to ments under Caffarelli's orders, for he had been directed to 
us come to the front and assume the command of his old brigades, 
tli those of Ficatier and Robert, both now with the main army. 
te When Reille and the Italians marched south, Aragon was 
ed exposed to the inroads of Montijo, Duran, the Empecinado, 
and Mina, all of whom had been harried, but by no means 
crushed, by the late marches and countermarches of the French. 
That trouble would ensue both Napoleon and Suchet were well 
aware. But the Emperor had made up his mind that all other 
considerations were to be postponed to the capture of Valencia 
and the destruction of Blake's army. When these ends were 
achieved, not only Reille and Severoli, but other troops as well, 
should be drawn northwards, to complete the pacification of 
Aragon, and to make an end of the lingering war in Catalonia. 
Severoli had reached Teruel on November 30, but was ordered 
to await the junction of Reille's troops, and these were still 

1 D'Armagnac's obscure campaign will be found chronicled in detail in 
the narrative of the Baden officer, Riegel, iii. pp. 357-60, who shared in it 
along with the rest of the German division from La Mancha. 


far off. Indeed Reille himself only started from Saragossa with 
Bourke's brigade on December 10th, and Pannetier's brigade 
(which had been hunting Duran in the mountains) was two long 
marches farther behind. Without waiting for its junction, 
Severoli and Reille marched from Teruel on December 20th, 
and reached Segorbe unopposed on the 24th. Here they 
were in close touch with Suchet, and received orders to make 
a forced march to join him, as he intended to attack the lines 
of the Guadalaviar on the 26th. To them was allotted the most 
important move in the game, for they were to cross the 
Guadalaviar high up, beyond the westernmost of Blake's long 
string of batteries and earthworks, and to turn his flank and 
get in his rear, while the Army of Aragon assailed his front, 
and held him nailed to his positions by a series of vigorous] 
attacks. The point on which Reille and Severoli were to i 
march was Ribaroja, fifteen miles up-stream from Valencia. 

When the two divisions from Aragon should have arrived,' 
Suchet could count on 33,000 men in line, but as Pannetier was 
still labouring up two marches in the rear, it was really with| 
30,000 only that he struck his blow — a force exceeding that 
which Blake possessed by not more than 6,000 or 7,000 bayonets.. 
Considering the strength of the Spanish fortifications the task 
looked hazardous : but Suchet was convinced, and rightly, 
that the greater part of the Army of Valencia was still so much 
demoralized that much might be dared against it : and the! 
event proved him wise. 

On the night of December 25th all the divisions of the Army 
of Aragon had abandoned their cantonments, and advanced 
towards the Spanish lines — Habert on the left next the sea;, 
Palombini to the west of Valencia, opposite the village oi 
Mislata ; Harispe and Musnier farther up-stream, opposite; 
Quarte. The cavalry accompanied this last column. Reille 
and Severoli, on their arrival, were to form the extreme right oi 
the line, and would extend far beyond the last Spanish entrench- 
ments. The weak Neapolitan division alone (now not mucl] 
over 1,000 strong) was to keep quiet, occupying the entrenched 
position in the suburb of Serranos, which faced the city olj 
Valencia. Its only duty was to hold on to its works, in cast 
Blake should try a sortie at this spot, with the purpose o; 


breaking the French line in two. That such a weak force was 
left to discharge such an important function, is a sufficient proof 
of Suchet's belief in Blake's incapacity to take the offensive. 

The lines which the French were about to assail were rather 
long than strong, despite of the immense amount of labour 
that had been lavished on them during the last three months. 
Their extreme right, on the side of the sea, and by the mouth 
of the Guadalaviar was a redoubt (named after the Lazaretto 
hard by) commanding the estuary : from thence a long line of 
earthworks continued the defences as far as the slight hill of 
Monte Oliveto, which guarded the right flank of the great 
entrenched camp of which the city formed the nucleus. Here 
there was a fort outside the walls, and connected with them 
by a ditch and a bastioned line of earthworks, reaching as far 
as the citadel at the north-east corner of the town. From 
thence the line of resistance for some way was formed of the 
mediaeval wall of Valencia itself, thirty feet high and ten thick. 
It was destitute of a parapet broad enough to bear guns : but 
the Spaniards had built up against its back, at irregular dis- 
tances, scaffolding of heavy beams, and terraces of earth, on 
which a certain amount of cannon were mounted. The gates 
were protected by small advanced works, mounting artillery. 
Blake had made Valencia and its three outlying southern and 
western suburbs of Ruzafa, San Vincente, and Quarte into 
•a single place of defence, by building around those suburbs 
'a great line of earthworks and batteries. It was an immense 
work consisting of bastioned entrenchments provided with 
a ditch eighteen feet deep, and filled in some sections with 
! water. From the city the line of defence along the river con- 
'tinued as far as the village of Manises, with an unbroken series 
of earthworks and batteries. The Guadalaviar itself formed an 
outer obstacle, being a stream running through low and marshy 
ground, and diverted into many water-cuts for purposes of 

The continuous line of defences from the sea as far as Manises 
was about eight miles long. It possessed some outworks on 
the farther bank of the Guadalaviar, three of the five bridges 
which lead from Valencia northward having been left standing 
by Blake, with good tites-de-pont to protect them from Suchet's 


attacks. Thus the Spaniards had the power to debouch on to 
the French side of the river at any time that they pleased. 
This fact added difficulties to the projected attack which the 
Marshal was planning. 

The troops behind the lines of the Guadalaviar consisted of 
some 23,000 regulars, with a certain amount of local urban 
guards and armed peasantry whose number it is impossible to 
estimate with any precision — probably they gave some 3,000 
muskets more, but their fighting value was almost negligible 
The right of the line, near the sea, was entirely made over to 
these levies of doubtful value. Miranda's division manned the 
fort of Monte Oliveto and the whole north front of the city. 
Lardizabal garrisoned the earthworks from the end of the 
town wall as far as the village of Mislata. This last place and 
its works fell to the charge of Zayas. Creagh's Murcians were 
on Zayas's left at Quarte : finally the western wing of the army 
was formed by the Valencian divisions of Obispo and Villacampa; 
holding San Onofre and Manises, where the fortifications ended 
The whole of the cavalry was placed so as to cover the left rear 
of the lines, at Aldaya and Torrente. A few battalions of the 
raw 4 Reserve Division ' were held in the city as a central reserve 
The arrangements of Rlake seem liable to grave criticism, since 
he placed his two good and solid divisions, those of Lardizabal 
and Zayas, in the strongest works in the centre of his line, but 
entrusted his left flank, where a turning movement by the 
French might most easily take place, to the demoralize 
battalions of Villacampa and Obispo, who had a consisten 
record of rout and disaster behind them. It is clear that lines 
however long, can always be turned, unless their ends rest, a: 
did those of Torres Vedras, on an impassable obstacle such 
the sea. If the French should refuse to attack the works 
front, and should march up the Guadalaviar to far beyond th< 
last battery, it would be impossible to prevent them fro 
crossing, all the more so because, after Manises, the network o 
canals and water-cuts, which makes the passage difficult in th 
lower course of the river, comes to an end, and the only obstacl 
exposed to the invader is a single stream of no great depth 
Blake, therefore, should have seen that the critical point wai 
the extreme west end of his lines, and should have placed the 


his best troops instead of his worst. Moreover he appears to 
have had no proper system of outposts of either cavalry or 
infantry along the upper stream, for (as we shall see) the first 
passage of the French was made not only without opposition, 
but without any alarm being given. Yet there were 2,000 
Spanish cavalry only a few miles away, at Torrente and Aldaya. 
Suchet's plan of attack, which he carried out the moment 
M that Reille joined him, and even before the latter's rearmost 
It | brigade had got up into line, was a very ambitious one, aiming 
to not merely at the forcing of the Guadalaviar or the investment 
f of Valencia, but at the trapping of the whole Spanish army. It 
f) ! was conducted on such a broad front, and with such a dispersion 
lit of the forces into isolated columns, that it argued a supreme 
i '• contempt for Blake and his generalship. Used against such 
a general as Wellington it would have led to dreadful disaster. 
But Suchet knew his adversary. 

The gist of the plan was the circumventing of the Spanish 
lines by two columns which, starting one above and the other 
below Valencia, were to cross the river and join hands to the 
I south of the city. Meanwhile the main front of the works was 
i to be threatened (and if circumstances favoured, attacked) by 
a very small fraction of the French army. Near the sea Habert's 
division was to force the comparatively weak line of works at 
the estuary, and then to cut the road which runs from Valencia 
between the Mediterranean and the great lagoon of the Albu- 
fera. Far inland the main striking force of the army, com- 
posed of the divisions of Harispe and Musnier, with all the 
cavalry, and with Reille's three brigades following close behind, 
was to pass the Guadalaviar at Ribaroja, three or four miles 
above Manises, and from thence to extend along the south 
front of the Spanish lines, take them in the rear, and push on 
so as to get into touch with Habert. Compere's weak Neapolitan 
brigade was to block the bridge-heads out of which Blake might 
make a sally northward. Palombini's Italians were to press 
close up to Mislata, which Suchet judged to be the weakest 
point in the Spanish lines, and to deliver against it an attack 
which was to be pushed more or less home as circumstances 
might dictate. The whole force employed (not counting Pan- 
netier's brigade, which had not yet joined Reille) was just 


30,000 men. Of these 25,000 were employed in the flanking! 
movements ; less than 5,000 were left to demonstrate against 
Blake's front along the lines of the Guadalaviar. 

The main and decisive blow was of course to be delivered by 
Harispe, Musnier, and Reille, who were to cross the river at 
a point where the Spaniards were unlikely to make any serious 
opposition, since it was outside their chosen ground of defence, 
and was clearly watched rather than held. If 20,000 men 
crossed here, and succeeded in establishing themselves south of 
Valencia by a rapid march, Blake would find his lines useless, 
and would be forced to fight in the open, in order to secure 
a retreat southward, or else to shut himself and his whole force 
up in the entrenched camp around the city. Suchet could 
accept either alternative with equanimity : a battle, as he 
judged, meant a victory, the breaking up of the Spanish army 
and the capture of Valencia. If, on the other hand, Blake 
refused to fight a general engagement, and retired within his 
camp, it would lead to his being surrounded, and the desired 
end would only be deferred for a few days. There were only 
two dangers — one was that the Spanish general might abscond 
southward with the bulk of his army, without fighting, the 
moment that he heard that his enemy was across the Guada 
laviar. The second was that, waiting till the French main body 
was committed to its flank march, he might break out north- 
ward by the three bridges in his hands, overwhelm the Neapoli- 
tans, and escape towards Liria and Segorbe into the mountains. 
Suchet judged that his enemy would try neither of these 
courses ; he would not be timid enough to retreat on the 
instant that he learnt that his left wing was beginning to be 
turned ; nor would he be resourceful enough to strike awa 
northward, as soon as he saw that the turning movement was 
formidable and certain of success. Herein Suchet judged aright. 

At nightfall on the 25th-26th of December two hundred 
hussars, each carrying a voltigeur behind him, forded the 
Guadalaviar at Ribaroja, and threw out a chain of posts which 
brushed off a few Spanish cavalry vedettes. The moment 
that the farther bank was clear, the whole force of Suchet's 
engineers set to work to build two trestle-bridges for infantry, 
and to lay a solid pontoon bridge higher up for guns and 


cavalry. A few hours later Harispe's division began to pass — 
then Musnier's, lastly Boussard's cavalry. The defile took 
a long time, and even by dawn Reille's three brigades had not 
arrived or begun to pass. But by that time ten thousand 
French were over the river. The Spanish vedettes had reported, 
both to their cavalry generals at Aldaya and to Blake at 
Valencia, that the enemy was busy at Ribaroja, but had not 
been able to judge of his force, or to make out that he was 
constructing bridges. Their commanders resolved that nothing 
could be done in the dark, and that the morning light would 
determine the character of the movement \ 

The late December sun soon showed the situation. Harispe's 
division was marching on Torrente, to cut the high-road to 
Murcia. The cavalry and one brigade of Musnier were preparing 
to follow : the other brigade of the second division (Robert's) 
was standing fast by the bridges, to cover them till Reille should 
appear and cross. But while this was the most weighty news 
brought to Blake, he was distracted by intelligence from two 
other quarters. Habert was clearly seen coming down by the 
seaside, to attack at the estuary ; and Palombini was also 
approaching in the centre, in front of Mislata. The daylight 
was the signal for the commencement of skirmishing on each 
of the three far-separated points. Blake, strange as it may 
appear, made up his mind at first that the real danger lay on 
the side next the sea, and that Habert's column was the main 
striking force 2 . But when it became clear that this wing of the 
French army was not very strong, and was coming on slowly, 
he turned his attention to Palombini, whose attack on Mislata 
was made early, and was conducted in a vigorous style. It was 
to this point that he finally rode out from the city, and he took 
up his position behind Zayas, entirely neglecting the turning 
movement on his left — apparently because it was out of sight, 
and he could not make the right deduction from the reports 
which his cavalry had brought him. 

1 So Suchet's narrative (Mdmoires, ii. pp. 214-15). Belmas says that only 
'one bridge was finished when Harispe and Musnier passed — the others after 
tdawn only. 

2 For Blake's opinions and actions see the record of his staff-officer, 
Schepeler (pp. 502-3). 


Meanwhile Harispe's column, pushing forward with the 
object of reaching the high-road from Valencia to Murcia, the 
natural route for Blake's army to take, if it should attempt to 
escape southward, ran into the main body of the Spanish horse, 
which was assembling in the neighbourhood of the village of 
Aldaya. The French infantry were preceded by a squadron 
of hussars, who were accompanied by General Boussard, the 
commander of Suchet's cavalry division. This small force was 
suddenly encompassed and cut up by several regiments of 
Martin Carrera's brigade. Boussard was overthrown and left 
for dead — his sword and decorations were stripped from his 
body. But more French squadrons began to come up, and 
Harispe's infantry opened fire on the Spaniards, who were soon 
forced to retire hurriedly — they rode off southward towards 
the Xucar river. They were soon completely out of touch with 
the rest of Blake's army. 

Harispe's column then continued its way, sweeping eastward 
towards the Murcian chaussee in the manner that Suchet had 
designed ; but the rest of the operations of the French right 
wing were not so decisive as its commander had hoped. Mahy, 
learning of the movement of the encircling column, and seeing 
Robert's brigade massed opposite the" extreme flank of his 
position at Manises, while some notice of Reille's near approach 
also came to hand, suddenly resolved that he would not be sur- 
rounded, and abandoned all his lines before they were seriously 
attacked. He had the choice of directing Villacampa and 
Obispo to retire towards Valencia and join Blake for a serious 
battle in the open, or of bidding them strike off southward and 
eastward, and escape towards the Xucar, abandoning the main 
body of the army. He chose the second alternative, and 
marched off parallel with Harispe's threatening column, direct- 
ing each brigade to get away as best it could. His force at 
once broke up into several fractions, for the cross-roads were 
many and perplexing. Some regiments reached the Murcian 
chaussee before Harispe, and escaped in front of him, pursued 
by the French cavalry. Others, coming too late, were forced to ! 
forgo this obvious line of retreat, and to struggle still farther 
eastward, only turning south when they got to the marshy 
borders of the lagoon of Albufera. Obispo, with 2,000 of his 

VALENCIA The Siege (Dec 1811 - Jan 1812) 

1VV. ^fluttnsUre, Ox^rot, 14 m 

English Miles 

1811] MAHY'S RETREAT 65 

men, was so closely hunted by the hostile cavalry that he barely 
found safety by striking along the narrow strip of soft ground 
between the lagoon and the sea. On the morning of the 27th 
he struggled through to Cullera near the mouth of the Xucar : 
Mahy, with the greater part of Villacampa's division and some 
of Obispo's and Creagh's, arrived somewhat earlier at Alcira, 
higher up the same stream, where he found the fugitive cavalry 
already established. The divisions were much disorganized, but 
they had lost very few killed or wounded, and not more than 
500 prisoners. Mahy rallied some 4,000 or 5,000 men at Alcira, 
and Obispo a couple of thousand at Cullera, but they were 
a 4 spent force,' not fit for action. Many of the raw troops had 
disbanded themselves and gone home. 

Thus three-sevenths of Blake's army were separated from 
Valencia and their Commander-in-Chief without having made 
any appreciable resistance. But it seems doubtful whether 
Mahy should be blamed — if he had waited an hour longer in 
his positions his whole corps might have been captured. If he 
had retired towards Valencia he would have been, in all 
probability, forced to surrender with the rest of the army 
a few days later. And in separating himself from his chief he 
had the excuse that he knew that Blake's intention had been to 
retire towards the Xucar if beaten, not to shut himself up in 
Valencia. He may have expected that the rest of the army 
would follow him southward, and Blake (as we shall see) 
probably had the chance of executing that movement, though 
he did not seize it. 

Meanwhile the progress of the engagement in other quarters 
must be detailed. Palombini made a serious attempt to break 
through the left centre of the Spanish lines at Mislata. His 
task was hard, not so much because of the entrenchments, or 
of the difficulty of crossing the Guadalaviar, which was f ordable 
for infantry, but from the many muddy canals and water-cuts 
with which the ground in front of him abounded. These, 
though not impassable for infantry, prevented guns from getting 
to the front till bridges should have been made for them. The 
Italians waded through the first canal, and then through the 
river, but were brought to a stand by the second canal, that of 
Fabara, behind which the Spanish entrenchments lay. After 



a furious fire-contest they had to retire as far as the river, under 
whose bank many sought refuge — some plunged in and waded 
back to the farther side. Palombini rallied them and delivered 
a second attack ; but at only one point, to the left of Mislata, 
did the assault break into the Spanish line. Zayas, aided by 
a battalion or two which Mahy had sent up from Quarte, 
vindicated his position, and repulsed the attack with heavy 
loss. But when the news came from the left that Harispe had 
turned the lines, and when Mahy's troops were seen evacuating 
all their positions and hurrying off, Zayas found himself with 
his left flank completely exposed. 

Blake made some attempt to form a line en potence to Zayas' s 
entrenchments, directing two or three of Creagh's battalions 
from Quarte and some of his reserve from the city to make 
a stand at the village of Chirivella. But the front was never 
formed — attacked by some of Musnier's troops these detach- 
ments broke up, Creagh's men flying to follow Mahy, and the 
others retiring to the entrenched camp. 

Thereupon Blake ordered Zayas and Lardizabal, who lay to 
his right, to retreat into Valencia before they should be turned 
by the approaching French. The movement was accomplished 
in order and at leisure, and all the guns in and about the 
Mislata entrenchments were brought away. Palombini had 
been too hardly handled to attempt to pursue. 

The General-in-Chief seemed stunned by the suddenness of 
the disaster. ' He looked like a man of stone,' says Schepeler, 
who rode at his side, ' when any observation was made to him 
he made no reply, and he could come to no decision. He would 
not allow Zayas to fight, and when a colonel (the author of this 
work) suggested at the commencement of the retreat that it 
would be well to burn certain houses which lay dangerously 
close to the entrenched camp, he kept silence. Whereupon 
Zayas observed in bitter rage to this officer : " Truly you are dull, 
my German friend ; do you not see that you cannot wake the man 
up ? " ' According to the narratives of several contemporarie 
there would still have been time at this moment to direct th 
retreating column southward and escape, as Obispo did, alon 
the Albufera. For Habert (as we shall see) had been muc 
slower than Harispe in his turning movement by the side of th 


Mediterranean. Some, among them Schepeler, suggest that the 
whole garrison might have broken out by the northern bridges 
and got away. For Palombini was not in a condition to hinder 
them, and the Neapolitans in front of the bridge-heads were 
but a handful of 1,200 men. But the General, still apparently 
unconscious of what was going on about him, drew back into 
the entrenched camp, and did no more. 

Habert, meanwhile, finally completed his movement, and 
joined hands with Harispe at last. His lateness was to be 
accounted for not by the strength of the opposition made by 
the irregular troops in front of him, but by the fact that his 
advance had been much hindered by the fire of the flotilla 
lying off the mouth of the Guadalaviar. Here there was a swarm 
of gunboats supported by a British 74 and a frigate. Habert 
would not commence his passage till he had driven them away, 
by placing a battery of sixteen siege-guns on the shore near 
the Grao. After much firing the squadron sheered off \ and 
about midday the French division crossed the Guadalaviar, 
partly by fording, partly on a hastily constructed bridge, and 
attacked the line of scattered works defended by irregulars 
which lay behind. The Spaniards were successively evicted 
from all of them, as far as the fort of Monte Oliveto. Miranda's 
division kept within the entrenched camp, and gave no assistance 
to the bands without; but it was late afternoon before Habert had 
accomplished his task, and finally got into touch with Harispe. 

Blake was thus shut up in Valencia with the divisions of 
Miranda, Zayas, and Lardizabal, and what was left of his raw 
reserve battalions : altogether some 17,000 fighting-men re- 
mained with him. The loss in actual fighting had been very 
small — about 500 killed and wounded and as many prisoners. 
The French captured a good many guns in the evacuated 
works and a single standard. Suchet returned his total casual- 
ties at 521 officers and men, of whom no less than 50 killed and 
355 wounded were among Palombini's Italians — the only corps 
which can be said to have done any serious fighting 2 . The 

1 Napier says (iv. p. 30) that the gunboats fled without firing a shot. 
Suchet and Schepeler speak of much firing, as does Arteche. 

No less than three of the Italian colonels were hit, and thirty- four 
officers in all. 

F 2 


Marshal's strategical combination would have been successful 
almost without bloodshed, if only Palombini had not pressed 
his attack so hard, and with so little necessity. But the Spanish 
army, which was drawn out on a long front of nine miles, 
without any appreciable central reserve, and with no protection 
for its exposed flank, was doomed to ruin the moment that 
the enemy appeared in overwhelming force, beyond and behind 
its extreme left wing. Blake's only chance was to have watched 
every ford with great vigilance, and to have had a strong flying 
column of his best troops ready in some central position, from 
which it could be moved out to dispute Suchet's passage with- 
out a moment's delay. Far from doing this, he tied down his 
two veteran divisions to the defence of the strongest part of his 
lines, watched the fords with nothing but cavalry vedettes, and 
kept no central reserve at all, save 2,000 or 3,000 men of his 
untrustworthy ' Reserve Division.' In face of these dispositions 
the French were almost bound to be successful. A disaster was 
inevitable, but Blake might have made it somewhat less 
ruinous if he had recognized his real position promptly, and had 
ordered a general retreat, when Harispe's successful turning 
movement became evident. In this case he would have lost 
Valencia, but not his army. 

As it was, a week more saw the miserable end of the campaign. 
Suchet's first precaution was to ascertain whether there was 
any danger from the fraction of the Spanish army which Mahy 
and Obispo had carried off. He was uncertain how strong they 
were, and whether they were prepared to attack him in the 
rear, supposing that he should sit down to the siege of Valencia. 
Accordingly he sent out at dawn on the 26th December two 
light columns of cavalry and voltigeurs against Alcira and 
Cullera, whither he knew that the refugees had retired. These 
two reconnaissances in force discovered the enemy in position, 
but the moment that they were descried Mahy retreated 
towards Alcoy, and Obispo towards Alicante — both in such 
haste and disorder that it was evident that they had no fighting 
spirit left in them. 

Suchet, therefore, was soon relieved of any fear of danger 
from this side, and could make his arrangements for the siege. 
He sent back to the north bank of the Guadalaviar the whole 


division of Musnier, which was there joined three days later by 
Reille's belated brigade, that of Pannetier. Harispe, Habert, 
Severoli, and Reille's other French brigade (that of Bourke) 
formed the investment on the southern bank. Palombini lay 
astride of the river near Mislata, with one brigade on each 
bank. The whole force of 33,000 men was sufficient for the 
task before it. The decisive blow would have to be given by 
the siege artillery ; the whole train which had captured Sagun- 
tum had long been ready for its work. And it had before it not 
regular fortifications of modern type, but, in part of the circum- 
ference of Blake's position, mediaeval walls not built to resist 
artillery, in the rest the ditch and bank of the entrenched camp, 
which, though strong as a field-work, could not be considered 
capable of resisting a formal attack by a strong siege-train. 

Blake was as well aware of this as Suchet, and he also knew 
(what Suchet could not) that the population of 100,000 souls 
under his charge had only 10 days' provision of flour and 19 or 
20 of rice and salt fish. The city, like the army, had been 
living on daily convoys from the south, and had no great 
central reserves of food. If he should sit down, like Palafox 
at Saragossa, to make an obstinate defence behind improvised 
works, he would be on the edge of starvation in less than three 
weeks. But such a defence was impossible in face of the spirit 
of the people, who looked upon Blake as the author of all their 
woes, regarded him as a tyrant as well as an imbecile, and were 
as likely to rise against him as to turn their energies to resisting 
the French. Palafox at Saragossa accomplished what he did 
because the spirit of the citizens was with him : Blake was 
despised as well as detested. 

When he recovered his composure he called a council of war, 
which voted almost unanimously x that the city was indefensible, 
and that the army must try to cut its way out on the north 
side of the Guadalaviar. If the sally had been made on the 27th 
it might have succeeded, for it was not till late on that day 
that Suchet's arrangements for the blockade of the north bank 
were complete. But the investing line had been linked up 

Only Miranda voted against a sortie, and thought that nothing could 
be done, except to hold out for a while in the walls and then surrender. 
Arteche, xi. p. 241. 


by the night of the 28th-29th, when Blake made his last stroke 
for safety. At six in the evening the field army issued from 
the gate of St. Jose and began to cross the bridge opposite it, 
the westernmost of the three of which the Spaniards were in 
possession. This led not to the great chaussee to Saguntum 
and Tortosa, which was known to have been cut and entrenched 
by the enemy, but to the by-road to Liria and the mountains. 
Lardizabal headed the march, Zayas followed, escorting the 
artillery and a considerable train, Miranda brought up the rear. 
Charles O'Donnell was left to man the walls with the urban 
guards and the 4 Reserve Division,' and was given permission to 
capitulate whenever he should be attacked. 

Lardizabal's vanguard, under a Colonel Michelena, swerved 
from the Liria road soon after passing the Guadalaviar, in order 
to avoid French posts, and successfully got as far as the canal 
of Mestalla before it was discovered or checked. The canal 
was too broad to be passed by means of some beams and planks 
which had been brought up. But Michelena got his men across, 
partly by fording and partly over a mill-dam, and presently 
got to the village of Burjasort, where the artillery of Palombini's 
division were quartered. These troops, surprised in the dark, 
could not stop him, and he pushed on through them and 
escaped to the hills with his little force — one squadron, one 
battalion, and some companies of Cazadores — some 500 or 
600 men \ Lardizabal, who should have followed him without 
delay, halted at the canal, trying to build a bridge, till the 
French all along the line were alarmed by the firing at Burjasort 
and began to press in upon him. He opened fire instead of 
pushing on at all costs, and presently found himself opposed by 
forces of growing strength. Blake thereupon made up his mind 
that the sally had failed, and gave orders for the whole column 
to turn back and re-enter Valencia. It seems probable that 
at least a great part of the army might have got away, if an 
attempt had been made to push on in Michelena's wake, for 
the blockading line was thin here, and only one French regiment 
seems to have been engaged in checking Lardizabal's exit. 

1 Not 5,000 as Napier (probably by a misprint) says on page 31 of his 
4th vol. Apparently a misprint in the original edition has been copied in 
all the later fourteen I 


Be this as it may, the sortie had failed, and Blake was faced 
by complete ruin, being driven back with a disheartened army 
into a city incapable of defence against a regular siege, and 
short of provisions. Next morning the despair of the garrison 
was shown by the arrival of many deserters in the French 
camp. The inevitable end was delayed for only eleven days 
more. On January 1, most of the siege-guns having been 
brought across the Guadalaviar, Suchet opened trenches against 
two fronts of the entrenched camp, the fort of Monte Oliveto 
and the southern point of the suburb of San Vincente, both 
salient angles capable of being battered from both flanks. 
Seven batteries were built opposite them by January 4th, and 
the advanced works in front were pushed up to within fifty 
yards of the Spanish works. Thereupon Blake, before the 
siege-guns had actually opened, abandoned the whole of his 
entrenched camp on the next day, without any attempt at 
defence. The French discovering the evacuation, entered, and 
found eighty-one guns spiked in the batteries, and a considerable 
quantity of munitions. 

Blake was now shut up in the narrow space of the city, whose 
walls were very unsuited for defence, and were easily approach- 
able in many places under shelter of houses left undemolished, 
which gave cover only fifty yards from the ramparts. For no 
attempt had been made to clear a free space round the inner 
enceinte, in case the outer circuit of the camp should be lost. 
While fresh batteries were being built in the newly-captured 
ground, to breach the city wall, Suchet set all the mortars in his 
original works to throw bombs into Valencia. He gathered 
that the population was demoralized and probably the garrison 
also, and thought that a general bombardment of the place 
might bring about a surrender without further trouble. About 
a thousand shells were dropped into the city within twenty- 
four hours, and Suchet then (January 6th) sent a parlementaire 
to invite Blake to capitulate. The Captain-General replied 
magniloquently that ' although yesterday morning he might 
have consented to treat for terms allowing his army to quit 
Valencia, in order to spare the inhabitants the horrors of 
a bombardment, now, after a day ? s firing, he had learnt that he 
could rely on the magnanimity and resignation of the people. 


The Marshal might continue his operations if he pleased, and 
would bear the responsibility for so maltreating the place.' 

As a matter of fact the bombardment had been very effective, 
numerous non-combatants had perished, and the spirit of the 
population was broken. Many openly pressed for a surrender, 
and only a few fanatical monks went round the streets exhorting 
the citizens to resistance. The bombardment continued on the 
7th and 8th, and at the same time Suchet pushed approaches 
close to the walls, and in several places set his miners to work to 
tunnel under them. Actual assault was never necessary, for on 
the 8th Blake held a council of war, which voted for entering into 
negotiation with the enemy. The report of this meeting sets 
forth that ' it had taken into consideration the sufferings of the 
people under these days of bombardment ; the cry of the 
populace was that an end must be put to its misery ; it was 
impossible to prolong the defence with any profit, without 
exposing the city to the horrors of an assault, in which the 
besiegers would probably succeed, considering the depressed 
condition of the garrison, and the feebleness of the walls. The 
citizens had not only failed to aid in the defence and to second 
the efforts of the regular troops, but were panic-stricken and 
demanded a surrender. The army itself did not seem disposed 
to do its duty, and after hearing the evidence of the commanders 
of different corps, the council decided in favour of negotiating 
to get honourable terms. If these were refused it might be 
necessary to continue a hopeless defence and die honourably 
among the ruins of Valencia v 

It is probable that Blake would really have accepted any 
terms offered him as c honourable,' for he assented to all that 
Suchet dictated to him. A feeble attempt to stipulate for 
a free departure for the field army, on condition that the city 
and all its armaments and resources were handed over intact, 
met with the curt refusal that it deserved. A simple capitula- 
tion with the honours of war was granted : one clause, however, 
was looked upon by Blake as somewhat of a concession, though 
it really was entirely to Suchet's benefit. He offered to grant 
an exchange to so many of the garrison as should be equivalent 

1 See the long proces verbal of the Council's proceedings translated in 
Belmas, iv. pp. 203-6. 


man for man, to French prisoners from the depots in Majorca 
and Cabrera, where the unfortunate remnants of Dupont's army- 
were still in confinement. As this was not conceded by the 
Spanish government, the clause had no real effect in mitigating 
the fate of Blake's army 1 . Other clauses in the capitulation 
declared that private property should be respected, and that 
no inquiry should be made after the surrender into the past 
conduct of persons who had taken an active part in the revolu- 
tion of 1808, or the subsequent defence of the kingdom of 
Valencia : also that such civilians as chose might have three 
months in which to transport themselves, their families, and 
their goods to such destination as they pleased. These clauses, 
as we shall see, were violated by Suchet with the most shock- 
ing callousness and shameless want of respect for his written 

On January 9 the citadel and the gate adjacent were handed 
over to the French ; Blake (at his own request) was sent away 
straight to France, and did not remain to take part in the 
formal surrender of his troops and of the city. It would seem 
that he could not face the rage of the Valencians, and was only 
anxious to avoid even twenty-four hours of sojourn among 
them after the disaster. Napoleon affected to regard him as 
a traitor, though he had never done even a moment's homage 
to Joseph Bonaparte in 1808, and shut him up in close cap- 
tivity in the donjon of Vincennes, where he remained very 
uncomfortably lodged till the events of April 1814 set him 
free 2 . 

The total number of prisoners yielded up by Valencia was 
16,270 regular troops, of whom some 1,500 were sick or wounded 
in the hospitals. The urban guards and armed peasants, who 

1 The proposal of exchange came first to Mahy at Alicante ; he called 
a council of generals, which resolved that the release of so many French 
would profit Suchet overmuch, because many of them had been imprisoned 
at Alicante and Cartagena, and had worked on the fortifications there. 
They could give the Marshal valuable information, which he had better 
be denied. The proposal must therefore be sent on to the Regency at 
Cadiz. That government, after much debate, refused to ratify the proposal, 
considering it more profitable to the enemy than to themselves. 

Some notes about his captivity may be found in the Mimoires of Baron 
Kolli, the would-be deliverer of King Ferdinand, who was shut up in 
another tower of the castle. 


were supposed to be civilians covered by the amnesty article in 
the capitulation, are not counted in the total. The regulars 
marched out of the Serranos gate on January 10, and after 
laying down their arms and colours were sent prisoners to 
France, marching in two columns, under the escort of Pan- 
netier's brigade, to Saragossa. Twenty-one colours and no 
less than 374 cannon (mostly heavy guns in the defences) were 
given over, as also a very large store of ammunition and 
military effects, but very little food, which was already begin- 
ning to fail in the city when Blake surrendered. 

To prevent unlicensed plunder Suchet did not allow his own 
troops to enter Valencia till January 14th, giving the civil 
authorities four days in which to make preparations for the 
coming in of the new regime. He was better received than 
might have been expected — apparently Blake's maladroit dic- 
tatorship had thoroughly disgusted the people. Many of the 
magistrates bowed to the conqueror and took the oath of homage 
to King Joseph, and the aged archbishop emerged from the 
village where he had hidden himself for some time, and ' showed 
himself animated by an excellent spirit ' according to the 
Marshal's dispatch. 

This prompt and tame submission did not save Valencia 
from dreadful treatment at the victor's hands. Not only did 
he levy on the city and district a vast fine of 53,000,000 francs 
(over £2,120,000), of which 3,000,000 were sent to Madrid and 
the rest devoted to the profit of the Army of Aragon, but he 
proceeded to carry out a series of atrocities, which have been 
so little spoken of by historians that it would be difficult to 
credit them, if they were not avowed with pride in his own 
dispatches to Berthier and Napoleon. 

The second article of Blake's capitulation, already cited above, 
had granted a complete amnesty for past actions on the part 
of the Valencians — ' II ne sera fait aucune recherche pour le 
passe contre ceux qui auraient pris une part active a la guerre 
ou a la revolution,' to quote the exact term. In his dispatch 
of January 12 to Berthier, Suchet is shameless enough to 
write : 1 1 have disarmed the local militia : all guilty chiefs will 
be arrested, and all assassins punished ; for in consenting to 
Article II of the Capitulation my only aim was to get the matter 


over quickly V c Guilty chiefs ' turned out to mean all civilians 
who had taken a prominent part in the defence of Valencia : 
4 assassins ' was interpreted to cover guerrilleros of all sorts, 
not (as might perhaps have been expected) merely those 
persons who had taken part in the bloody riots against the 
French commercial community in 1808 2 . In his second 
dispatch of January 17 Suchet proceeds to explain that he 
has arrested 480 persons as ' suspects,' that a large number of 
guerrillero leaders have been found among them, who have 
been sent to the citadel and have been already shot, or will be 
in a few days. He has also arrested every monk in Valencia ; 
500 have been sent prisoners to France : five of the most guilty, 
convicted of having carried round the streets a so-called ' banner 
of the faith,' and of having preached against capitulation, and 
excited the people to resistance, have been already executed. 
Inquiries were still in progress. They resulted in the shooting 
of two more friars 3 . But the most astonishing clause in the 
dispatch is that ' all those who took part in the murders of the 
French [in 1808] will be sought out and punished. Already 
six hundred have been executed by the firmness of the Spanish 
judge Marescot, whom I am expecting soon to meet V It was 
a trifling addition to the catalogue of Suchet's doings that 
350 students of the university, who had volunteered to aid the 
regular artillery during the late siege, had all been arrested and 
sent off to France like the monks. Two hundred sick or footsore 
prisoners who straggled from the marching column directed on 
Teruel and Saragossa are said to have been shot by the wayside 5 . 
It is probable that innumerable prisoners were put to death in 
cold blood after the capitulation of Valencia, in spite of Suchet's 
guarantee that ' no research should be made as to the past.' 
Of this Napier says no word 6 , though he quotes other parts 
of Suchet's dispatches, and praises him for his ' vigorous and 
prudent ' conduct, and his ' care not to offend the citizens by 
violating their customs or shocking their religious feelings.' 

1 See the dispatches printed in full in Belmas, Appendix, vol. iv, pp. 218- 
20, and 226-7 of his great work. 

2 For which see vol. i. p. 68. 

3 The names of all seven friars are given by Toreno and Schepeler. 

4 Can the frightful figure of 600 be a mistake for 60 ? 

8 See Toreno, iii. p. 28. 6 See his pages, iv. 33. 



When once Suchet's long-deferred movements began, on 
December 26, 1812, his operations were so rapid and successful 
that the whole campaign was finished in fourteen days. The 
unexpected swiftness of his triumph had the result of rendering 
unnecessary the subsidiary operations which Napoleon had 
directed the Armies of Portugal, the Centre, and Andalusia, to 
carry out. 

D'Armagnac, with his 3,000 men of the Army of the Centre, 
still lay at Cuenca when Suchet's advance began, hindered 
from further movement by the badness of the roads and the 
weather. Opposite him were lying Bassecourt's small force at 
Requena — not 2,000 men — and the larger detachment of the 
Murcian army under Freire, which Blake had originally in- 
tended to draw down to join his main body. This seems to 
have consisted of some 4,000 foot and 1,000 horse 1 about the 
time of the New Year. 

Far more important was the force under Montbrun, detached 
from the Army of Portugal, which had moved (all too tardily) 
from La Mancha and the banks of the Tagus, by Napoleon's 
orders. Assembled, as we have already shown 2 , only on 
December 29th, it had started from San Clemente on January 2 
to march against Blake's rear by the route of Almanza, the 
only one practicable for artillery at midwinter. Thus the 
expedition was only just getting under way when Suchet had 
already beaten Blake and thrust him into Valencia. It con- 
sisted of the infantry divisions of Foy and Sarrut, of the whole 
of the light cavalry of the Army of Portugal, and of five batteries 

1 On February 1st Freire's infantry division, though it had suffered much 
from desertion in the meanwhile, still numbered 3,300 men present, and 
his cavalry 850 sabres. See tables in Los Ejtrcilos espanoles, pp. 149-50. 

2 See above, p. 56. 


of artillery, in all about 10,000 men. Of the succour which had 
been promised from d'Armagnac's division, to raise the force 
to the figures of 12,000 men, few if any came to hand \ 

Montbrun marched with Sarrut and the cavalry by Albacete 
and Chinchilla, leaving Foy as a reserve echelon, to follow by 
slower stages and keep up the communication with La Mancha. 
Between Chinchilla and Almanza the advanced cavalry fell in 
with Freire's Spanish division, marching across its front. For 
on the news of Suchet's passage of the Guadalaviar on Decem- 
ber 26, Freire had moved southward from his position on the 
Cabriel river, with the intention of joining Mahy, and so of 
building up a force strong enough to do something to succour 
Blake and the beleaguered garrison of Valencia. On January 6th 
Montbrun's horse came upon one of Freire's detachments, dis- 
persed it, and took some prisoners. But the greater part of the 
Murcians succeeded in getting past, and in reaching Mahy at 
Alicante (January 9th). 

So cowed was the country-side by the disasters about 
Valencia that Montbrun at Almanza succeeded in getting a 
letter carried by one of his staff to Valencia in two days 2 . It 
announced to Suchet his arrival on the rear of the Spanish 
army, and his intention of pressing on eastward so as to drive 
away Freire and Mahy and completely cut off the retreat of 
Blake towards Murcia. But when the dispatch was received 
Blake was already a prisoner, and his army had laid down its 
arms on the preceding day. Suchet, therefore, wrote a reply 
to Montbrun to thank him for his co-operation, to inform him 
that it was no longer necessary, and to advise him to return 
as quickly as possible toward the Army of Portugal and the 
Tagus, where his presence was now much more needed than on 
the coast of the Mediterranean. The Army of Aragon was 
strong enough to deal in due course with Mahy and Freire, anji 
to take Alicante. 

Montbrun, however, refused to accept this advice. He was 

1 According to Joseph's letter to Montbrun (Correspondence of King 
Joseph, viii. p. 294) a battalion or two may have joined Montbrun, as he 
tells that general that he is glad to know that the troops of his army have 
given satisfaction. 

2 Suchet, Memoir es, ii. p. 234, for dates. 


probably, as his chief Marmont remarks, desirous of dis- 
tinguishing himself by carrying out some brilliant enterprise 
as an independent commander 1 . Knowing that Mahy's and 
Freire's troops were in a very demoralized condition, and 
underrating the strength of the fortress of Alicante, he resolved 
to march against that place, which he thought would make 
little or no resistance. Accordingly he called forward Foy to 
Albacete and Chinchilla, left the main part of his guns in his 
charge, and marched on Alicante with the cavalry and Sarrut's 
division, having only one battery of horse artillery with him. 

At the news of his approach Mahy, who had been at Alcoy 
since he abandoned the line of the Xucar on December 27th, 
retired into Alicante with Creagh's and Obispo's infantry. 
Bassecourt also joined him there, while Freire with his own 
column, Villacampa's division, and all the Murcian and Valen- 
cian cavalry, occupied Elche and other places in the neighbour- 
hood. Over 6,000 regular infantry were within the walls of 
Alicante by January 15th. Montbrun on the following day 
drove Freire out of Elche westward, and presented himself in 
front of the new fortification of Alicante, which had been much 
improved during the last year, and included a new line of 
bastioned wall outside the old mediaeval enceinte and the rocky 
citadel. It is probable that Montbrun had no knowledge of' 
the recent improvements to the fortress, and relied on old 
reports of its weakness. After advancing into the suburbs, 1 
and throwing a few useless shells into the place, whose artillery 
returned a heavy fire, he retreated by Elche and Hellin to I 
Albacete 2 . As he went he laid waste the country-side in the ' 
most reckless fashion, and raised heavy requisitions of money 1 
in Elche, Hellin, and other places. This involved him in an! 
angry correspondence with Suchet, who insisted that no 
commander but himself had a right to extort contributions in 
the region that fell into his sphere of operations. 

1 Marmont accuses Montbrun exactly as Napoleon accuses Marmont ! \ 

2 On his first appearance he sent to summon Alicante, and received the) 
proper negative answer. But Schepeler, who was in the place, says that 
the governor, General de la Cruz, showed signs of yielding. Fortunately 
the other generals did not. It would have been absurd to treat seriously 
a force of 4,000 infantry and 1,500 horse with only six light guns! 
(Schepeler, p. 520.) 


Mont brim's raid was clearly a misguided operation. Alicante 
was far too strong to be taken by escalade, when it was properly 
garrisoned : the only chance was that the garrison might 
flinch. They refused to do so, and the French general was left 
in an absurd position, demonstrating without siege-guns against 
a regular fortress. His action had two ill-effects — the first 
was that it concluded the Valencian campaign with a fiasco 
— a definite repulse which put heart into the Spaniards. The 
second (and more important) was that it separated him from 
Marmont and the Army of Portugal for ten days longer than 
was necessary. His chief had given him orders to be back on the 
Tagus by the 15th-20th of January, as his absence left the main 
body too weak. Owing to his late start he would in any case 
have overpassed these dates, even if he had started back from 
Almanza on January 13th, after receiving the news of the fall 
of Valencia. But by devoting nine days to an advance from 
Almanza to Alicante and then a retreat from Alicante to 
Albacete, he deferred his return to Castile by that space of time. 
He only reached Toledo on January 31st with his main column. 
Foy's division, sent on ahead, arrived there on the 29th. 
Montbrun's last marches were executed with wild speed, for 
he had received on the way letters of the most alarming kind 
from Marmont, informing him that Wellington had crossed 
the Agueda with his whole army and laid siege to Ciudad 
Rodrigo. The Army of Portugal must concentrate without 
delay. But by the time that Montbrun reached Toledo, Rodrigo 
had alrejjpy been twelve days in the hands of the British 
generald^ind further haste was useless. The troops were 
absolutely worn out, and received with relief the order to halt 
and wait further directions, since they were too late to save the 
fallen fortress. It is fair to Montbrun to remark that, even if 
he had never made his raid on Alicante, he would still have 
been ^unable to help his chief. If he had turned back from 
Almanza on January 13th, he would have been at Toledo only 
on the 22nd — and that city is nearly 200 miles by road from 
Ciudad Rodrigo, which had fallen on the 19th. The disaster 
on the Agueda was attributable not to Montbrun's presump- 
tuous action, but to the Emperor's orders that the Army of 
Portugal should make a great detachment for the Valencian 


campaign. Even if the raiding column had started earlier, as 
Napoleon intended, it could not have turned back till it got 
news of the capitulation of Blake, which only took place on 
January 8th. And whatever might then have been its exact 
position, it could not have been back in time to join Marmont 
in checking the operations of Wellington, which (as we have 
already stated) came to a successful end on January 19th. 
Wherefore, though Montbrun must receive blame, the responsi- 
bility for the fall of Rodrigo lay neither with him nor with 
Marmont, but with their great ma^er. 

Another diversion made by Napoleon's orders for the purpose 
of aiding Suchet was quite as futile — though less from the fault 
of the original direction, and more from an unforeseen set of 
circumstances. Like Marmont and King Joseph, Soult had 
also been ordered to lend Suchet assistance against Valencia, 
by demonstrating from the side of Granada against Murcia and 
its army. This order, issued apparently about November 19, 
1811 *, and repeated on December 6th, reached the Duke of 
Dalmatia just when he had assembled all his disposable field- 
forces for the siege of Tarifa, an operation where preparations 
began on December 8th and which did not end till January 5th. 
Having concentrated 13,000 men in the extreme southern point 
of his viceroyalty, Soult had not a battalion to spare for a sally 
from its extreme eastern point. He could not give up a great 
enterprise already begun ; and it was only when it had failed, 
and the troops from Tarifa were returning — in a sufficiently 
melancholy plight — that Soult could do anything. But by this 
time it was too late to help Suchet, who had finished his business 
without requiring assistance from without. 

Whether Soult was already aware of the surrender of Valencia 
or not, when January 20th had arrived, he had before that day 
issued orders to his brother, the cavalry general, Pierre Soult, 
to take the light horse of the 4th Corps from Granada, and to 
execute with them a raid against Murcia, with the object of 
drawing off the attention of any Spanish troops left in that 
direction from Suchet. The General, with about 800 sabres, 

1 It is alluded to in a dispatch of the Emperor to Berthier on that day. 
' Le due de Dalmatie a l'ordre d'envoyer une colonne en Murcie pour faire 
une diversion.' St. Cloud, Nov. 19. 



pushing on by Velez Rubio and Lorca, arrived before the gates 
of Murcia quite unopposed on January 25th. Freire had left 
no troops whatever to watch the borders of Granada, and had 
drawn off everything, save the garrison of Cartagena, toward 
the Valencian frontiers. Pierre Soult summoned the defenceless 
city, received its surrender, and imposed on it a ransom of 
60,000 dollars. He entered next day, and established himself 
in the archbishop's palace ; having neither met nor heard of 

; any enemy he was quite at his ease, and was sitting down to 
dine, when a wild rush of Spanish cavalry came sweeping down 
the street and cutting up his dispersed and dismounted troopers. 

iThis was General Martin La Carrera, whose brigade was the 
nearest force to Murcia when Soult arrived. Hearing that the 
French were guarding themselves ill, he had resolved to attempt 
a surprise, and, dividing his 800 men into three columns, assailed 
Murcia by three different gates. His own detachment cut its 
way in with success, did much damage, and nearly captured the 

| French general. But neither of the other parties showed such 

! resolution ; they got bickering with the French at the entries of 
the city, failed to push home, and finally retired with small loss. 
The gallant and unfortunate La Carrera, charging up and down 
the streets in vain search for his reinforcements, was finally 
surrounded by superior numbers, and died fighting gallantly. 

His enterprise warned Soult that Spanish troops were collect- 
[ing in front of him, and indeed Villacampa's infantry was not 
far off. Wherefore he evacuated Murcia next day, after raising 
so much of the contribution as he could, and plundering many 
private houses. The Spaniards reoccupied the place, and 
Joseph O'Donnell, now placed in command of the Murcian 
army in succession to Mahy, gave La Carrera's corpse a splendid 

Euneral. Soult retreated hastily to the Granadan frontier, 
)illaging Alcantarilla and Lorca by the way. This was the 
only part taken by the French Army of Andalusia in the 
January campaign of 1812. The siege of Tarifa had absorbed 
ill its energies. 

Montbrun's and Pierre Soult's enterprises had little effect on 
:he general course of events in eastern Spain. It was Suchet's 
)wn operations which, in the estimation of every observer from 
he Emperor downwards, were to be considered decisive. 

OMAN. V n 


When Valencia had fallen, every one on the French side supposed) 
that the war was practically at an end in this region, and that; 
the dispersion of the remnants of Mahy's and Freire's troops i 
and the capture of Peniscola, Alicante, and Cartagena, — the 
three fortresses still in Spanish hands, — were mere matters oft 
detail. No one could have foreseen that the region south of 
theXucarwas destined to remain permanently in the hands oft 
the patriots, and that Suchet's occupation of Valencia wasi 
to last for no more than eighteen months. Two causes, neither 
of them depending on Suchet's own responsibility, were destined 
to save the kingdom of Murcia and the southern region of i 
Valencia from conquest. The first was Napoleon's redistribution i 
of his troops in eastern Spain, consequent on the approach off 
his war with Russia. The second was the sudden victorious 
onslaught of Wellington on the French in the western parts of! 
the Peninsula. How the former of these causes worked must 
at once be shown — the effect of the latter cause did not become; 
evident till a little later. 

Of the 33,000 men with whom Suchet had conquered Valencia; 
and captured Blake, no less than 13,000 under Reille had been| 
lent him from the Army of the North, and were under orders! 
to return to the Ebro as soon as possible. Indeed, till they 
should get back, Aragon, very insufficiently garrisoned by! 
Caffarelli's division, was out of hand, and almost as much in! 
the power of the Empecinado, Duran, and Monti jo, as of thei 
French. Moreover, so long as Caffarelli was at Saragossa, andi 
his troops dispersed in the surrounding region, both Navarre andi 
Old Castile were undermanned, and the Army of the North was; 
reduced to little more than Dorsenne's two divisions of the 
Young Guard. To secure the troops for the great push against 
Valencia, so many divisions had shifted eastward, that Marmont 
and Dorsenne between them had, as the Emperor must have 
seen, barely troops enough in hand to maintain their position, 
if Wellington should make some unexpected move — though 1 
Napoleon had persuaded himself that such a move was im-j 
probable. In spite of this, he was anxious to draw back Reille's. 
and Caffarelli's, no less than Montbrun's, men to more central 

But this was not all : in December the Emperor's dispatches 


begin to show that he regarded war with Russia in the spring of 
1812 as decidedly probable, and that for this reason he was 
about to withdraw all the Imperial Guard from Spain. On 
December 15th a note to Berthier ordered all the light and 
heavy cavalry of the Guard — chasseurs, grenadiers a cheval, 
dragoons, Polish lancers — to be brought home, as also its horse 
artillery and the gendarmes $ elite. All these were serving in 
the Army of the North, and formed the best part of its mounted 
troops. This was but a trifling preliminary warning of his 
intentions : on January 14, 1812 — the results of the Valencian 
campaign being still unknown — he directed Berthier to withdraw 
from Spain the whole of the Infantry of the Guard and the 
whole of the Polish regiments in Spain. This was an order 
of wide-spreading importance, and created large gaps in the 
muster-rolls of Suchet, Soult, and Dorsenne. Suchet's Poles 
(three regiments of the Legion of the Vistula, nearly 6,000 
men, including the detachments left in Aragon) formed a most 
important part of the 3rd Corps. Soult had the 4th, 6th, and 
9th Polish regiments and the Lancers, who had done such 
good service at Albuera, a total of another 6,000 men. But 
Dorsenne was to be the greatest sufferer — he had in the Army 
of the North not only the 4th of the Vistula, some 1,500 bayonets, 
but the whole of the infantry of the Young Guard, the two 
divisions of Roguet and Dumoustier, twenty-two battalions 
over 14,000 strong. The dispatch of January 14 directed that 
Suchet should send off his battalions of the Legion ' immediately 
after the fall of Valencia.' Soult was to draft away his Poles 
4 within twenty-four hours after the receipt of the order.' 
Dorsenne, of course, could not begin to send off the Guard 
Divisions of infantry till the troops lent from the Army of 
the North (Reille and Caffarelli) were freed from the duties 
imposed on them by the Valencian expedition. A supple- 
mentary order of January 27th told him that he might keep 
them for some time longer if the English took the offensive-— 
news of Wellington's march on Rodrigo was just coming to 
hand. c Le desir,' says the Emperor, ' que j'ai d'avoir ma Garde 
in'est pas tellement pressant qu'il faille la renvoyer avant que 
i les affaires aient pris une situation nouvelle dans le Nord V 
1 Napoleon to Berthier, Paris, Jan. 27, 1812. 
G 2 


As a matter of fact some Guard-brigades did not get off till 
March, though by dint of rapid transport, when they had once 
passed the Pyrenees, they struggled to the front in time to take 
part in the opening of the great Russian campaign in June. 
The fourth brigade, eight battalions under Dumoustier, did not 
get away till the autumn was over. 

Thus the Emperor had marked off about 27,000 good veteran 
troops for removal from the Peninsula, with the intention of 
using them in the oncoming Russian war. The Army of the 
North was to lose the best of its divisions — those of the South 
and of Aragon very heavy detachments. Nothing was to come 
in return, save a few drafts and bataillons de marche which 
were lying at Bayonne. The Emperor in his dispatch makes 
some curious self -justificatory remarks, to the effect that 
he should leave the Army of Spain stronger than it had been 
in the summer of 1811 ; for while he was withdrawing thirty- 
six battalions, he had sent into the Peninsula, since June last, 
forty-two battalions under Reille, Caffarelli, and Severoli. This| 
was true enough : but if the total strength of the troops nowi 
dedicated to Spain was not less than it had been in June I 
1811, it was left weaker by 27,000 men than it had been in) 
December 1811. 

Now Suchet, when deprived of Reille's aid, and at the samei 
time directed to send back to France his six Polish battalions,! 
was left with a very inadequate force in Valencia — not muchl 
more than half what he had at his disposition on January l.j 
It would seem that the Emperor overrated the effect of the 
capture of Blake and the destruction of his army. At any 
rate, in his dispatches to Suchet, he seemed to consider thati 
the whole business in the East was practically completed by 
the triumph at the New Year. The Marshal was directed ' to 
push an advanced guard towards Murcia, and put himself in 
communication with the 4th Corps — the eastern wing oJj 
Soult's army — which would be found at Lorca V But thei 
operations of the troops of the Army of Andalusia in thk 
quarter were limited to the appearance for two days at Murcie 
of Pierre Soult's small cavalry raid, of which Suchet got nc 
news till it was passed and gone. He was left entirely to hi: 
1 See Suchet' s Memoires, ii. pp. 237-8. 


own resources, and these were too small for any further advance : 
the Emperor not only took away both Reille and the Poles, but 
sent, a few days later, orders that Palombini's Italian division, 
reduced by now to 3,000 men by its heavy casualties on 
December 26th, should be sent into southern Aragon against 
Duran and Monti jo. The departure of Palombini (February 15th) 
left Suchet with less than 15,000 men in hand. It must be 
remembered that the conquest of a Spanish province always 
meant, for the French, the setting aside of a large immobilized 
garrison, to hold it down, unless it were to be permitted to drop 
back into insurrection. It was clear that with the bulk of the 
kingdom of Valencia to garrison, not to speak of the siege of 
the still intact fortress of Peniscola, Suchet would have an 
infinitesimal field-force left for the final move that would be 
needed, if Mahy and Freire were to be crushed, and Alicante 
and Cartagena — both strong places — to be beleaguered. 

The Marshal had by the last week in January pushed 

! Harispe's division to Xativa, beyond the Xucar, and Habert's 

i to Gandia near the sea-coast. These 9,000 men were all his 

disposable force for a further advance : Valencia had to be 

garrisoned ; Musnier's division had gone north, to cover the 

, high-road as far as Tortosa and the Ebro ; some of the Italians 

were sent to besiege Peniscola. Suchet might, no doubt, have 

pushed Habert and Harispe further forward towards Alicante, 

i but he had many reasons for not doing so. That fortress had been 

j proved — by Montbrun's raid — to be in a posture of defence : 

besides its garrison there were other Spanish troops in arms in the 

neighbourhood. To the forces of Freire, Obispo, Villacampa, and 

iBassecourt, there was added the newly-formed brigade of 

General Roche, an Irish officer lent by the British government 

jto the Spaniards, who had been drilling and disciplining the 

icadres of the battalions handed over to him *, till they were in 

a better condition than most of the other troops on this coast. 

The muster-rolls of the 4 united 2nd and 3rd armies,' as these 

remnants were now officially styled, showed, on February 1, 

1812, 14,000 men present, not including Villacampa's division, 

These were Chinchilla, 2nd of Murcia, and a new locally raised battalion 
jcalled 2nd of Alicante. He was in March handed over also Canarias, Burgos, 
and Ligero de Aragon, which had belonged to Freire till that date. 


which was moving off to its old haunts in Aragon. By March 1 
this figure had risen to 18,000, many deserters who had gone 
home after the fall of Valencia having tardily rejoined the ranks 
of their battalions. Over 2,000 cavalry were included in the 
total — for nearly the whole of Blake's squadrons had escaped 
(not too gloriously) after the disastrous combats on Decem- 
ber 26, 1812. 

If Suchet, therefore, had moved forward with a few thousand 
men at the end of January, he would have risked something, 
despite of the depressed morale of his enemies. But in addition 
there was vexatious news from Catalonia, which presently 
caused the sending of part of Musnier's division beyond the 
Ebro, and it was reported (only too correctly) that the yellow 
fever had broken out with renewed violence at Murcia and 
Cartagena. An advance into the infected district might be 
hazardous. But most of all was any further initiative dis- : 
couraged by the consideration that no help could be expected 
from Marmont or Soult. By the end of January Suchet was! 
aware of Wellington's invasion of Leon, and of the siege of i 
Ciudad Rodrigo. Not only did this move absorb all the atten-! 
tion of Marmont, Dorsenne, and King Joseph, but Soult was! 
convinced that it boded evil for him also, and that a new 
attack on Badajoz was imminent. Hill's manoeuvres in| 
Estremadura (of which more elsewhere) attracted all hisi 
attention, and he let it be known that he had neither the 
wish nor the power to send expeditions eastward, to co-operate: 
against Murcia. Last, but most conclusive, of all Suchet's 1 
hindrances was a grave attack of illness, which threw him on 
a bed of sickness early in February, and caused him to solicit: 
permission to return to France for his convalescence. The 1 
Emperor (with many flattering words) refused this leave, and 
sent two of his body physicians to Valencia to treat the Marshal's 
ailment. But it was two months before Suchet was able to 
mount his horse, and put himself at the head of his army. 
From February to the beginning of April operations were 
necessarily suspended for the Army of Aragon, since its chiei 
was not one of those who gladly hand over responsibility and 
the power of initiative to his subordinates. 

Hence there was a long gap in the story of the war in south- 


eastern Spain from January to April 1812. The only events 
requiring notice during that period were the occupation by the 
French of Denia and Peniscola. The former, a little port on 
the projecting headland south of Valencia, was furnished with 
fortifications newly repaired during Blake's regime, and had 
been an important centre of distribution for stores and muni- 
tions of war, after the Spaniards lost the Grao of Valencia in 
November, since it was the nearest harbour to their positions 
along the Guadalaviar. In the general panic after Blake's 
surrender Mahy withdrew its garrison, but forgot to order the 
removal of its magazines. Harispe seized Denia on January 20, 
and found sixty guns mounted on its walls, and forty small 
merchant vessels, some of them laden with stores, in its port. 
He garrisoned the place, and fitted out some of the vessels as 
privateers. Mahy's carelessness in abandoning these resources 
was one of the reasons which contributed most to his removal 
from command by the Cadiz Regency. It was indeed a gross 
piece of neglect, for at least the guns might have been destroyed, 
and the ships brought round to Alicante. 

The story of Peniscola, however, was far more disgraceful. 
This fortress sometimes called ' the little Gibraltar ' from its 
impregnable situation — it is a towering rock connected with 
the mainland by a narrow sand-spit 250 yards long — was one 
of the strongest places in all Spain. It had appeared so im- 
pregnable to Suchet, that, on his southward march from Tortosa 
to Valencia, he had merely masked it, and made no attempt to 
meddle with it 1 . Peniscola had suffered no molestation, and 
was regularly revictualled by Spanish and British coasting 
vessels from Alicante, Cartagena, and the Balearic Isles. The 
governor, Garcia Navarro, was an officer who had an excellent 
reputation for personal courage — taken prisoner at Falset in 
1811 2 he had succeeded in escaping from a French prison and 
had reported himself again for further service. The garrison of 
1,000 men was adequate for such a small place, and was com- 
posed of veteran troops. In directing it to be formally be- 
leaguered after the fall of Valencia, Suchet seems to have relied 
more on the general demoralization caused by the annihilation 
of Blake's army than on the strength of his means of attack. 
1 See above, p. 14. 2 See vol. iii. pp. 503-4. 


On January 20th he ordered Severoli with two Italian and two 
French battalions to press the place as far as was possible, and 
assigned to him part of the siege-train that had been used at 
Saguntum. The trenches, on the high ground of the mainland 
nearest the place, were opened on the 28th, and on the 31st the 
besiegers began to sap downhill towards the isthmus, and to 
erect five batteries on the best available points. But it was clear 
that the fortress was most inaccessible, and that to reach its walls 
across the low-lying sand-spit would be a very costly business. 
Nevertheless, when a summons was sent in to the governor 
on February 2nd, he surrendered at once, getting in return 
terms of an unusually favourable kind — the men and officers 
of the garrison were given leave either to depart to their homes 
with all their personal property, or to enlist in the service of 
King Joseph. This was a piece of mere treachery : Navarro 
had made up his mind that the cause of Spain was ruined by 
Blake's disaster, and had resolved to go over to the enemy, while 
there were still good terms to be got for deserters. As Suchet 
tells the story, the affair went as follows. A small vessel, sailing 
from Peniscola to Alicante, was taken by a privateer fitted 
out by Harispe at Denia. Among letters seized by the captors * 
was one from the governor, expressing his disgust with his 
situation, and in especial with the peremptory advice given him 
by the English naval officers who were in charge of the re- 
victualling service and the communications. He went on to say 
that he would rather surrender Peniscola to the French than 
let it be treated as a British dependency, whereupon the Marshal 
asked, and obtained, the surrender of the place. Napier expresses 
a suspicion — probably a well-founded one — that the letter may 
have been really intended for Suchet's own eye, and that the 
whole story was a piece of solemn deceit. ' Such is the Marshal's 
account of the affair — but the colour which he thought it 
necessary to give to a transaction so full of shame to Navarro, 
can only be considered as part of the price paid for Peniscola 2 .' 
The mental attitude of the traitor is sufficiently expressed by 

1 Suchet says that the captain of the boat threw his letters overboard 
at the last moment, but that they floated and were picked up by the French. 
Was this a farce ? Or is the whole story doubtful ? 

2 Napier, Peninsular War, iv. p. 38. 


a letter which reached Suchet along with the capitulation. 
4 1 followed with zeal, with fury I may say, the side which I con- 
sidered the just one. To-day I see that to render Spain less 
unhappy it is necessary for us all to unite under the King, 
and I make my offer to serve him with the same enthusiasm. 
Your excellency may be quite sure of me — I surrender a fortress 
fully provisioned and capable of a long defence — which is the 
best guarantee of the sincerity of my promise V 

The most astounding feature of the capitulation was that 
Navarro got his officers to consent to such a piece of open 
treachery. If they had done their duty, they would have 
arrested him, and sent him a prisoner to Alicante. Demoralization 
and despair must have gone very far in this miserable garrison. 

The capture of Peniscola was Suchet's last success. He fell 
sick not long after, and when he once more assumed the active 
command of his troops in April, the whole situation of French 
affairs in Spain was changed, and no further advance was 
possible. The results of Wellington's offensive operations in 
the West had begun to make themselves felt. 

Meanwhile the remains of the Valencian and Murcian armies 
were reorganizing themselves, with Alicante as their base and 
central port of supply. Joseph O'Donnell, though not a great 
general, was at least no worse than Blake and Mahy — of whom 
the former was certainly the most maladroit as well as the 
most unlucky of commanders, while the latter had shown 
himself too timid and resourceless to play out the apparently 
lost game that was left to his hand in January 1812. By March 
there was once more an army in face of the French, and in 
view of the sudden halt of the invaders and the cheerful news 
from the West, hope was once more permissible. The main 
body of O'Donnell's army remained concentrated in front of 
Alicante, but Villacampa's division had gone off early to 
Aragon, to aid in the diversion against Suchet's communications, 
which was so constantly kept up by Duran and the Empecinado. 
This was a good move : the weak point of the French occupation 
was the impossibility of holding down broad mountain spaces, 
in which small garrisons were useless and helpless, while heavy 
columns could not live for more than a few days on any given spot. 
1 See letter printed in Belmas, iv. p. 248. 


OF 1811-12 



The chronicle of the obstinate and heroic defence made by 
the Catalans, even after the falls of Tarragona and Figueras 
had seemed to make all further resistance hopeless, was carried 
in the last volume of this work down to October 28, 1811, when 
Marshal Macdonald, like St. Cyr and Augereau, was recalled 
to Paris, having added no more to his reputation than had his 
predecessors while in charge of this mountainous principality. 
We have seen how General Lacy, hoping against hope, rallied 
the last remnants of the old Catalan army, and recommenced 
(just as Macdonald was departing) a series of small enterprises 
against the scattered French garrisons. He had won several 
petty successes in evicting the enemy from Cervera, Igualada, 
and Belpuig — the small strongholds which covered the main 
line of communication east and west, through the centre of th 
land, between Lerida and Barcelona. The enemy had even been 
forced to evacuate the holy mountain of Montserrat, th 
strongest post on the whole line. 

Hence when, in November, General Decaen arrived to tak 
over Macdonald's task, he found before him a task not withou 
serious difficulties, though the actual force of Spaniards in th 
field was far less than it had been before the disasters at Tarra 
gona and Figueras. Lacy had a very small field army — he ha 
reorganized 8,000 men by October, and all through his com 
mand the total did not grow very much greater. When h 
handed over his office to Copons fifteen months after, the 
were no more than 14,000 men under arms, including cadre 


and recruits. On the other hand he had a central position, 
a free range east and west, now that the line of French posts 
across Catalonia had been broken, and several points of more 
or less safe access to the sea. Munitions and stores, and occa- 
sionally very small reinforcements from the Balearic Isles, were 
still brought over by the British squadron which ranged along 
the coast. Some of the officers, especially the much tried and 
never-despairing Eroles, and the indefatigable Manso, were 
thoroughly to be relied upon, and commanded great local 
popularity. This Lacy himself did not possess — he was obeyed 
because of his stern resolve, but much disliked for his autocratic 
and dictatorial ways, which kept him in constant friction with 
the Junta that sat at Berga. Moreover he was a stranger, while 
the Catalans disliked all leaders who were not of their own 
blood : and he was strongly convinced that the brunt of the 
fighting must be borne by the regular troops, while the popular 
voice was all in favour of the somatenes and guerrilleros, and 
against the enforcement of conscription. Much was to be said 
on either side : the warfare of the irregulars was very harassing 
to the French, and had led to many petty successes, and one 
great one — the capture of Figueras. On the other hand these 
levies were irresponsible and untrustworthy when any definite 
operation was in hand : they might, or they might not, turn up 
in force when they were required : the frank disregard of their 
chiefs for punctuality or obedience drove to wild rage any 
officer who had served in the old army. With regular troops it 
was possible to calculate that a force would be where it was 
wanted to be at a given time, and would at least attempt to 
carry out its orders : with the somatenes it was always possible, 
nay probable, that some petty quarrel of rival chiefs, or some 
rival attraction of an unforeseen sort, would lead to non-appear- 
ance. To this there was the easy reply that ever since Blake 
first tried to make the Catalans work ' militarmente and not 
paisanmente ' the regular army for some two years had never 
gained a single battle, nor relieved a single fortress \ The best 

See notes on discussions of this sort in Sir Edward Codrington's 
Memoirs, i. pp. 264 and 277. He had seen much of the evils of both kinds 
of organization, and leaned on the whole to the irregulars, from a personal 
dislike for Lacy. 



plan would probably have been to attempt to combine the 
two systems : it was absolutely necessary to have a nucleus 
of regular troops, but unwise to act like Blake and Lacy, who 
tried to break up and discourage the somatenes, in order that 
they might be forced into the battalions of the standing army. 
The constant series of defeats on record had been caused rather 
by the unskilful and over-ambitious operations of the generals 
than by their insisting on keeping up the regular troops, who 
had behaved well enough on many occasions. But too much 
had been asked of them when, half -trained and badly led, they 
were brought into collision with the veterans of France, without 
the superiority of numbers which alone could make up for their 
military faults. 

Since the capture of Cervera, Belpuig, and Igualada in October, 
the territories held by the French in Catalonia fell into two 
separate and divided sections. On the western side, adjacent 
to Aragon, Frere's division, left behind by Suchet, garrisoned 
Lerida, Tarragona, and Tortosa : though it was a powerful 
force of over 7,000 men, it could do little more than occupy these 
three large places, each requiring several battalions. At the 
best it could only furnish very small flying columns to keep 
up the communication between them. It was hard to maintain 
touch with the other group of French fortresses, along the sea- 
coast road from Tarragona to Barcelona, which were often 
obsessed by Spanish bands, and always liable to be molested 
by Edward Codrington's British ships, which sailed up and 
down the shore looking for detachments or convoys to shell. 
The fort of the Col de Balaguer, twenty miles north of Tortosa, 
was the look-out point towards Tarragona and the sole French 
outpost in that direction. 

In eastern Catalonia the newly-arrived commander, General 
Decaen (a veteran whose last work had been the hopeless 
defence of Bourbon and Mauritius, where he had capitulated 
in 1810), had some 24,000 men in hand. But he was much 
hampered by the necessity for holding and feeding the immense 
Barcelona, a turbulent city which absorbed a whole division 
for its garrison. It was constantly on the edge of starvation 
and was only revictualled with great trouble by vessels sailin 
from the ports of Languedoc, of which more than half wer 

I t 


t habitually captured by the British, or by heavy convoys 
's \ labouring across the hills from Gerona, which were always 
ho ! harassed, and sometimes taken wholesale, by the Spanish 
' detachments told off by Lacy for this end. Gerona and Figueras, 
both fortresses of considerable size, absorbed several battalions 
each. Smaller garrisons had also to be kept in Rosas, Hostalrich, 
Mataro, and Montlouis, and there were many other fortified 
ho | posts which guarded roads or passes, and were worth holding, 
ch 1 It was with difficulty that 6,000 or 8,000 men could be collected 
ey | for a movable field-force, even by borrowing detachments from 
ut the garrisons. An additional nuisance cropped up just as 
eir | Decaen took over the command : Lacy, seeing that the Pyre- 
i nean passes were thinly manned, sent Eroles with 3,000 men 
tr, J to raid the valleys of Cerdagne on the French side of the hills. 
^ i The invaders beat two battalions of national guards near 
nt Puigcerda, and swept far down the valley (October 29-Novem- 
d ber 2), returning with thousands of sheep and cattle and a large 
money contribution levied from the villages. This raid (which 
enraged Napoleon 1 ) made it necessary to guard the Pyrenees 
the better, and to send up more national guards from the frontier 
I departments. 

in Thus it came to pass that though Lacy had no more than 
a 8,000 men available, and no fortress of any strength to serve 
ten j as his base (Cardona and Seu d'Urgel, his sole strongholds, were 
ted | mediaeval strongholds with no modern works), he paralysed 
the French force which, between Lerida and Figueras, could 
show more than three times that strength. Such was the value 
of the central position, and the resolute hatred of the country- 
side for its oppressors. Catalonia could only be held down by 
garrisoning every village — and if the army of occupation split 
itself up into garrisons it was helpless. Hence, during the 
winter of 1811-12 and the spring and summer of the following 
year, it may be said that the initiative lay with the Catalans, 
and that the enemy (despite of his immensely superior numbers) 
was on the defensive. The helplessness of the French was 
sufficiently shown by the fact that from June to December 1811 
Barcelona was completely cut off from communication with 

1 Who called the raid an ' insult ' — Napoleon to Berthier, Paris, Feb. 29, 
1812, and compare letter of March 8. 


Gerona and France. It was only in the latter month that 
Decaen, hearing that the place was on the edge of starvation, 
marched with the bulk of Lamarque's division from Upper 
Catalonia to introduce a convoy ; while Maurice Mathieu, the 
governor of Barcelona, came out with 3,000 men of the garrison 
to meet him, as far as Cardadeu. Lacy, determined that 
nothing short of a vigorous push by the enemy should make 
their junction possible, and relieve Barcelona, offered opposition 
in the defile of the Trentapassos, where Vives had tried to stop 
St. Cyr two years back, showing a front both to Decaen and to 
Mathieu. But on recognizing the very superior numbers of the 
enemy he wisely withdrew, or he would have been caught 
between the two French columns. Decaen therefore was able to 
enter Barcelona with his immense convoy. [December 3rd-4th, 
1811.] The Spaniards retreated into the inland; their head 
quarters on the first day of the New Year were at Vich. 

There being no further profit in pressing Barcelona for the 
time being, Lacy, in January, resolved to turn his attention to 
the much weaker garrison of Tarragona, which belonged to 
Frere's division and Suchet's army, and was not under Decaen's 
immediate charge. Its communications with Lerida and Tor 
tosa were hazardous, and its stores were running low. The 
Spanish general therefore (about January 2) sent down Eroles's 
division to Reus, a few miles inland from Tarragona, with orders 
to cut all the roads leading into that fortress. The place was 
already in a parlous condition for want of food, and its governor 
had sent representations to Suchet that he was in need of 
instant succour. Therefore the moment that Valencia fell, the 
Marshal directed Musnier, whose division he had told off to 
hold the sea-coast between the Ebro and Guadalaviar, to march 
with the bulk of his men to Tortosa, to pick up what reinforce 
ments he could from its garrison, and to open the road from 
thence to Tarragona. 

Lafosse, the governor of Tortosa, was so impressed with the 
danger of his colleague in Tarragona, that he marched ahead 
along the coast-road before Musnier arrived, and reached the 
Col de Balaguer with a battalion of the 121st regiment and 
one troop of dragoons on January 18. Here he should have 
waited for the main column, but receiving false news that 


Eroles had left Reus and returned to the north, he resolved 
to push on ahead and clear the way for Musnier, believing that 
nothing but local somatenes were in front of him. He had 
reached Villaseca, only seven miles from Tarragona, when he 
was suddenly surprised by Eroles descending on his flank with 
over 3,000 men. He himself galloped on with the dragoons 
towards Tarragona, and escaped, with only twenty-two men, 
into the fortress. But his battalion, after barricading itself in 
Villaseca village and making a good resistance for some hours, 
was forced to surrender. Eroles took nearly 600 prisoners, and 
over 200 French had fallen. Lafosse, sallying from Tarragona 
with all that could be spared from the garrison, arrived too late 
to help his men, and had to return in haste [January 19] \ 

Tarragona now seemed in imminent danger, and both 
Musnier at Tortosa and Maurice Mathieu at Barcelona saw 
that they must do their best to relieve the place, or it would be 
starved out. Musnier spent so much time in organizing a convoy 
that he was late, and the actual opening of the road was carried 
out by the governor of Barcelona. That great city chanced 
to be crammed with troops at the moment, since Lamarque's 
division, which had escorted the December convoy, was still 
lying within its walls. Maurice Mathieu, therefore, was able to 
collect 8,000 men for the march on Tarragona. Eroles, unfor- 
tunately for himself, was not aware of this, and believing that 
the enemy was a mere sally of the Barcelona garrison, offered 
them battle at Altafulla on January 24. The French had 
marched by night, and a fog chanced to prevent the Catalans 
from recognizing the strength of the two columns that were 
approaching them. Eroles found himself committed to a close 
fight with double his own numbers, and after a creditable 
resistance was routed, losing his only two guns and the rear- 
guard with which he tried to detain the enemy. His troops 
only escaped by breaking up and flying over the hills, in what 
a French eye-witness described as un sauve-qui-peut general. 

1 There is an interesting account of the combat of Villaseca in Codring- 
ton's Memoirs, i. pp. 254-6 : he was present, having chanced to come on 
shore to confer with Eroles as to co-operation against Tarragona. An odd 
episode of the affair was that, when the French surrendered, they were 
found to have with them as prisoners Captains Flinn and Pringle, R.N., 
whom they had surprised landing at Cape Salou on the previous day. 


About 600 of them in all were slain or taken : the rest assembled 
at Igualada three days later. Eroles blamed Lacy and Sarsfield 
for his disaster, asserting that the Captain-General had 
promised to send the division of the latter to his help. But his 
anger appears to have been misplaced, for at this very time 
Decaen, to make a division in favour of Maurice Mathieu's 
movement, had sent out two columns from Gerona and Figueras 
into Upper Catalonia. They occupied Vich, Lacy's recent 
head-quarters, on January 22, two days before the combat of 
Altafulla, and Sarsfield's troops were naturally sent to oppose 
them. After wasting the upper valleys, Decaen drew back to 
Gerona and Olot on the 29th, having sufficiently achieved his 
purpose. Tarragona, meanwhile, was thoroughly revictualled 
by Musnier, who brought up a large convoy from Tortosa. Rein- 
forcements were also thrown into the place, and a new governor, 
General Bertoletti, who was to distinguish himself by a spirited 
defence in the following year. 

In February the whole situation of affairs in Aragon and 
western Catalonia (eastern Catalonia was less affected), was 
much modified by the return from the south of the numerous 
troops which had been lent to Suchet for his Valencian expe- 
dition. It will be remembered that Napoleon had ordered that 
Reille should march back to the Ebro with his own and Severoli's 
divisions, and that shortly afterwards he directed that Palom- 
bini's division should follow the other two into Aragon. Thus 
a very large body of troops was once more available for the 
subjection of Aragon and western Catalonia, which, since 
Reille's departure in December, had been very inadequately 
garrisoned by Caffarelli's and Frere's battalions, and had been 
overrun in many districts by the bands of the Empecinado, 
Duran, Mina, and the Conde de Montijo. Napoleon's new plan 
was to rearrange the whole of the troops in eastern Spain. 

Reille was to be the chief of a new ' Army of the Ebro,' com- 
posed of four field divisions — his own, Palombini's and Severoli's 
Italians, and a new composite one under General Ferino con- 
structed from so many of Frere's troops as could be spared from 
garrison duty (seven battalions of the 14th and 115th of the line), 
and six more battalions (1st Leger and 5th of the line) taken 
half from Musnier's division of Suchet's army and half from 


iiv.^oLijMsWe^Oic^gv^ iqif 

ID 20 30 40 


Maurice Mathieu's Barcelona garrison \ This last division never 
came into existence, as Suchet and Maurice Mathieu both found 
themselves too weak to give up the requisitioned regiments, 
which remained embodied respectively with the Valencian and 
Catalan armies. Nevertheless Reille had more than 20,000 men 
actually in hand, not including the fixed garrisons of Tarragona, 
Lerida, and the other fortresses on the borders of Aragon and 
Catalonia. This, when it is remembered that Caffarelli was 
still holding the Saragossa district, seemed an adequate force 
with which to make an end of the guerrilleros of Aragon, and 
then to complete, in conjunction with Decaen's Corps, the 
subjection of inland Catalonia. For this last operation was to 
be the final purpose of Reille : while Decaen was to attack 
Lacy from the eastern side, Reille (with Lerida as his base) was 
to fall on from the west, to occupy Urgel and Berga (the seat 
of the Catalan Junta and the centre of organized resistance), and 
to join hands with Decaen across the crushed remnants of the 
Spanish army 2 . So sure did the Emperor feel that the last 
elements of Catalan resistance were now to be destroyed, that 
he gave orders for the issue of the proclamation (drawn up 
long before 3 ) by which the Principality was declared to be 
united to the French empire. It was to be divided into the 
four departments of the Ter [capital Gerona], Montserrat 
[capital Barcelona], Bouches-de-1'Ebre [capital Lerida], and 
Segre [capital Puigcerda]. Prefects and other officials were 
appointed for each department, and justice was to be adminis- 
tered in the name of the Emperor. The humour of the arrange- 
ment (which its creator most certainly failed to see) was that 
three-fourths of the territory of each department was in the 
hands of the patriots whom he styled rebels, and that none of 
his prefects could have gone ten miles from his chef-lieu without 
an escort of 200 men, under pain of captivity or death. 

Reille's start was much delayed by the fact that one of his 

French brigades had been told off to serve as escort to the mass 

! of Blake's prisoners from Valencia, and could not get quit of 

Napoleon to Berthier, Paris, Jan. 25, after the receipt of the news of 
I the fall of Valencia. 

2 Details may be found in the dispatches of Feb. 29, and May 1st and 8th. 

3 See vol. iv. p. 215. 
OMAN, v tt 


them till, marching by Teruel, it had handed them over for) 
transference beyond the Pyrenees to the garrison of SaragossaJ 
Of his two Italian divisions, Palombini's was instructed toj 
devote itself to the clearing of southern Aragon, and the opening! 
up of the communications between the French garrisons oij 
Daroca, Teruel, and Calatayud. The other, Severoli's, called 
off from the siege of Peniscola, which had originally been 
entrusted to it 1 , marched for Lerida in two columns, the one; 
by the sea-coast and Tortosa, the other inland, by way oil 
Morella and Mequinenza. When his troops had begun to con-' 
centrate on the borders of Aragon and Catalonia, in and abouii 
Lerida, Reille began operations by sending a column, onej 
French brigade and one Italian regiment, to attack the ubiqui- 
tous Eroles, who, since his defeat at Altafulla a month before! 
had betaken himself to the inland, and the rough country alon£ 
the valleys of the two Nogueras, with the object of covering 
Catalonia on its western front. 

This expedition, entrusted to the French brigadier Bourkei 
ended in an unexpected check : Eroles offered battle wit! 
3,000 men in a strong position at Roda, with a torrent becj 
covering his front (March 5). Bourke, having far superio]| 
numbers, and not aware of the tenacity of the Catalan troops 
whom he had never before encountered, ordered a genera I 
frontal attack by battalions of the 60th French and 7th Italiar 
line. It was handsomely repulsed, with such heavy loss— U 
600 casualties it is said — that the French retreated as far a:|t 
Barbastro, pursued for some distance by the troops of Eroles! 
who thus showed that their late disaster had not impaired 
their morale 2 . This was a most glorious day for the Baron, on<; 
of the few leaders of real capacity whom the war in Catalonia 
revealed. He had been a civilian in 1808, and had to learn th<j 
elements of military art under chiefs as incapable as Blake and 
Campoverde. From a miquelete chief he rose to be a genera 
in the regular army, purely by the force of his unconquerable 

1 See above, p. 88. 

2 The exact loss is uncertain, but Bourke himself was wounded, an( 
Martinien's lists show 15 other casualties among French and Italian officers 
Vacani (vi. p. 65) says that the 7th Italian line alone lost 15 killed and 5'| 
wounded. A loss of 16 officers implies at least 300 men hit. 

1812] BARON EROLES 99 

pertinacity and a courage which no disasters could break. As 
a local patriot he had an advantage in dealing with his Catalan 

I countrymen, which strangers like Reding, Blake, Lacy, or 
Sarsfield never possessed, and their confidence was never 
betrayed. A little active man of great vivacity, generally with 
a cigar in the corner of his mouth, and never long still, he was 
not only a good leader of irregular bands, but quite capable of 
understanding a strategical move, and of handling a division 

| in a serious action. His self-abnegation during his service under 
chiefs whose plans were often unwise, and whose authority was 
often exercised in a galling fashion, was beyond all praise 1 . 

The check at Roda forced Reille to turn aside more troops 
against Eroles — practically the whole of Severoli's division was 
added to the column which had just been defeated, and on 
March 13th such a force marched against him that he was 
compelled to retire, drawing his pursuers after him toward the 
upper course of the Noguera, and ultimately to seek refuge in 
the wilds of Talarn among the foot-hills of the higher Pyrenees. 
His operations with a trifling force paralysed nearly half Reille's 
army during two critical months of the spring of 1812. Mean- 
while, covered by his demonstration, Sarsfield executed a 
destructive raid across the French border, overran the valleys 
beyond Andorra, and exacted a ransom of 70,000 dollars 
from Foix, the chief town of the department of the Arriege 
(February 19). This was the best possible reply to Napoleon's 
recent declaration that Catalonia had become French soil. 
The Emperor was naturally enraged ; he reiterated his orders 
po Reille to ' deloger les insurgents : il n'est que trop vrai qu'ils 
lie nourrissent de France ' — ' il faut mettre un terme a ces 
nsultes 2 .' But though Reille pushed his marches far into the 
:emote mountainous districts where the borders of Aragon and 
Catalonia meet, he never succeeded in destroying the bands 
which he was set to hunt down : a trail of burnt villages 
narked his course, but it had no permanent result. The 
nhabitants descended from the hills, to reoccupy their fields 

For numerous anecdotes of Eroles and lively pictures of his doings the 
eader may refer to the Memoirs of Edward Codrington, with whom he so 
Dften co-operated. 
8 Napoleon to Berthier, March 8th, 1812. 

H 2 


and rebuild their huts, when he had passed by, and the} 
insurgents were soon prowling again near the forts of LeridaJ 
Barbastro, and Monzon. 

Palombini in southern Aragon had equally unsatisfactory* 
experiences. Coming up from Valencia by the high-road, hej 
had reached Teruel on February 19th, and, after relieving andji 
strengthening the garrison there, set out on a circular sweep, | 
with the intention of hunting down Gay an and Duran — thej; 
Conde de Monti jo had just returned to the Murcian army at 
this moment \ while the Empecinado was out of the game forjj 
some weeks, being, as we shall presently see, busy in New|J 
Castile. But the movements of the Italian general were soonjl 
complicated by the fact that Villacampa, with the remnants oil 
his division, had started from the neighbourhood of Alicante] 
and Murcia much at the same time as himself, to seek once t 
more his old haunts in Aragon. This division had given a very \ 
poor account of itself while serving as regular troops under 
Blake, but when it returned to its native mountains assumedi 
a very different efficiency in the character of a large guerrilla 
band. Appearing at first only 2,000 strong, it recruited itselii 
up to a much greater strength from local levies, and became nc I 
mean hindrance to Palombini's operations. 

On the 29th of February the Italian general relieved Darocaj j 
ana* a few days later he occupied Calatayud, which had beer 
left ungarrisoned since the disaster of the previous October 2 j k 
After fortifying the convent of Nostra Senora de la Pefia a:|i. 
a new citadel for this place, he split up his division into severaj u 
small columns, which scoured the neighbourhood, partly t<| ; . 
sweep in provisions for the post at Calatayud, partly to drivij 
off the guerrilleros of the region. But to risk small detachment;) li 
in Aragon was always a dangerous business ; Villacampa, whc 
had now come up from the south, cut off one body of 200 meii 
at Campillo on March 5, and destroyed six companies aj 
Pozohondon on the 28th of the same month. Taught prudenc<| j 
by these petty disasters, and by some less successful attacks oil 
others of his flying columns, Palombini once more drew his mei 

1 Apparently about the same time that Villacampa and his divisioi' i 
came up to replace him in Aragon. 
3 See above, page 21. 


together, and concentrated them in the upland plain of Hused 
near Daroca. From thence he made another blow at Villacampa, 
who was at the same time attacked in the rear by a column sent 
up by Suchet from Valencia to Teruel. The Spaniard, however, 
i easily avoided the attempt to surround him, and retired with- 
out much loss or difficulty into the wild Sierra de Albarracin 
^April 18th). Meanwhile, seeing Palombini occupied in hunting 
Villacampa, the guerrillero Gay an made a dash at the new 
garrison of Calatayud, and entering the city unexpectedly 
captured the governor and sixty men, but failed to reduce the 
fortified convent in which the rest of the Italians took refuge 
[April 29th]. He then sat down to besiege them, though he had 
no guns, and could work by mines alone : but Palombini soon 
sent a strong column under the brigadiers Saint Paul and 
Schiazzetti, who drove off Gayan and relieved Calatayud 
[May 9th], 

Nevertheless three months had now gone by since the 
iattempt to reduce southern Aragon began, and it was now 
jobvious that it had been wholly unsuccessful. The hills and 
Igreat part of the upland plains were still in the possession of the 
Spaniards, who had been often hunted but never caught nor 
seriously mishandled. Palombini owned nothing more than 
Ithe towns which he had garrisoned, and the spot on which his 
head-quarters chanced for the moment to be placed. His 
istrength was not sufficient to enable him to occupy every 
[village, and without such occupation no conquest could take 
iplace. Moreover the time was at hand when Wellington's 
Operations in the West were to shake the fabric of French 
power all over Spain — even in the remote recesses of the 
\ragonese Sierras. Palombini was to be drawn off in July to 
join the Army of the Centre and to oppose the English. And 
with his departure such hold as the French possessed on the 
rugged region between Calatayud, Saragossa, and Teruel was 
po disappear. 

It will be noted that during these operations of the spring no 
indention has been made of the Empecinado, who had been so 
prominent in this quarter during the preceding autumn and 
winter. This chief was now at the bottom of his fortunes : 
aiding in New Castile after his accustomed fashion, he had 


been completely defeated by General Guy and a column of! 
King Joseph's army near Siguenza (February 7). He lost. 
1,000 men, only saved his own person by throwing himself! 
down an almost impracticable cliff, and saw his whole force! 
dispersed. This affair is said to have been the result of treachery : 
one of the Empecinado's lieutenants, a certain guerrillero leader: 
named Albuir (better known as El Manco from having lost! 
a hand) being taken prisoner a few days before, saved his neck, 
by betraying his chief's position and plans : hence the surprise.; 
El Manco entered the King's service and raised a 4 counter-i 
guerrilla ' band, with which he did considerable harm foi 
a space. The Empecinado had only collected 600 men even b] 
April, when he joined Villacampa and aided him in a rai( 
round Guadalajara \ 

Mina, on the other hand, the greatest of all the partisans.! 
was doing some of his best service to the cause of liberty during 
the early months of 1812. This was the period when he wasli 
conducting his bloody campaign of reprisals against Abbe.: 
the governor of Navarre, who had published in December 181 
the celebrated proclamation which not only prohibited am 
quarter for guerrilleros, but made their families and villages! 
responsible for them, and authorized the execution of 4 hostages 
levied on them, as well as the infliction of crushing finesj 
Mina replied by the formal declaration of a c war of extermina- 
tion against all French without distinction of rank,' and startec 1 
the system of shooting four prisoners for every Spaniard, soldieii 
or civilian, executed by the enemy. This he actually carri* 
out for some months, till the French proclamation was with 
drawn. The most horrid incident of this reign of terror waj| 
the shooting by the French, on March 21, of the four member.' 1 
of the 'insurrectional junta' of the province of Burgos, all 
magistrates and civilians, whom they had captured in a raid: 
and the counter-execution of eighty French soldiers by the Curat* 
Merino, one of Mina's colleagues, a few days later. This tim< 
of atrocities ended shortly after, when Abbe withdrew hi:l 
proclamation and Mina followed his example. 

On the departure of Reille's troops from Valencia it will b< 

1 For all this see Schepeler, pp. 570-1 ; King Joseph's Letters (Ducasse) 
viii. pp. 291 and 305 ; and Toreno, iii. pp. 81-2. 


remembered that one of his French brigades, that of Pannetier, 
had been sent as escort to the captive Spaniards of Blake's 
army. While the remainder of the new c Army of the Ebro ' 
went off in the direction of Lerida, as has already been seen, 
this brigade was turned aside against Mina. Dorsenne at the 
same time directed the greater part of his available field-force 
to join in the hunt, and all such of Caffarelli's troops as were 
not shut up in garrisons were told off for the same purpose. 
These detachments, when added to the normal force of occupa- 
tion in Navarre and Biscay, made up in all some 30,000 men. 
Divided into many columns, each of which was strong enough 
to face the 3,000 or 4,000 irregulars under Mina's command, 
they endeavoured to converge upon him, and to enclose him 
within the net of their operations. The chase was very hot in 
March : on the first of that month Caffarelli invaded the remote 
Pyrenean valley of Roncal, where it had been discovered that 
Mina kept his depots, his ammunition factory, and his hospitals. 
The valley was swept clean, but no appreciable number of the 
guerrilleros were captured. On the 24th, however, it looked 
as if disaster was impending, as three columns under Abbe, 
Dumoustier (who had a brigade of the Young Guard), and 
Laferriere had succeeded in disposing themselves around Mina's 
main body, between Sanguessa and Ochagavia. The guerrillero, 
however, saved himself by a night march of incredible difficulty 
across impracticable hills, and got away into Aragon. He was 
lost to sight, and was believed to have been too harassed to 
be formidable for many a day. 

Such was not the true state of affairs. Mina at once came back 
to his old haunts, by a circuitous march through southern 
Navarre, and on April 9th performed one of his most notable 
exploits. On that day he surprised an immense convoy of 
convalescents, civilians, baggage, and food-stuffs, which was 
marching from Vittoria to Mondragon, in the Pass of Salinas (or 
Puerto de Arlaban). Though escorted by 2,000 men (including 
the whole of the 7th Polish regiment just drawn off from 
Soult for the Russian war), it was completely destroyed. Five 
hundred of the Poles were slain, 150 captured, and an enormous 
booty, including (it is said) several hundred thousand francs in 
cash, fell into Mina's hands. He also delivered 450 Spanish 


prisoners, who were being conducted to captivity beyond the 

Such an exploit naturally drew down once more upon Mina 
the attention of all the neighbouring French commanders : 
Dorsenne and Reille again sent columns to aid the governor 
of Navarre, and from the 23rd to the 28th of April Mina was 
being hunted by powerful detachments converging on him 
from all sides \ He himself was very nearly captured at Robres 
by General Pannetier — who surprised him at dawn, helped by 
treachery on the part of a subordinate guerrillero chief, and 
dispersed his followers for the moment 2 . But all who were not 
slain or captured rallied around their indomitable leader, and 
followed him in a hazardous retreat, in which he threaded his 
way between the converging columns of the French and ultimately 
escaped to the Rioja. He asserts in his Memoirs, and with 
truth, that he was at this time of the highest service to Welling- 
ton's main operations, since he attracted and detained beyond 
the Ebro such a large proportion of Dorsenne's Army of the 
North, that in April and May it had not a man to spare to help 
Marmont. Even Dumoustier's Guard division, under orders 
to return to France for the Russian war, was put into the 
pack of pursuers who tried in vain to hunt him down. 

To sum up the results of all the operations in Catalonia, 
Aragon, and Navarre, which followed on the release of Reille's 
troops from the Valencian expedition, it may be said that 
Napoleon's scheme for the complete reduction of north-eastern 
Spain had completely failed by April. Large forces had been 
put in motion ; toilsome marches had been executed over many 
mountain roads in the worst season of the year ; all the 
bands of the insurgents had been more than once defeated 
and dispersed. But the country-side was not conquered : the 

1 There seems to be an error of dates in Napier, iv. p. 172, concerning 
Mina's operations, as the surprise of the convoy at Salinas is put after 
Mina's escape from Pannetier at Robres. But Mina's own Memoirs fix the 
date of the latter as April 23rd, 1812, while the former certainly happened 
on April 7th. Toreno (iii. p. 87) has got the sequence right. 

2 There is a curious and interesting account of this in Mina's own 
Memoirs, pp. 31-2, where he relates his narrow escape, and tells how he had 
the pleasure of hanging his treacherous lieutenant, and three local alcaldes, 
who had conspired to keep from him the news of Pannetier's approach. 


isolated garrisons were still cut off from each other by the enemy, 
wherever the heavy marching columns had passed on. The 
communications were no more safe and free than they had been 
in December. The loss of men by sickness and in the innu- 
merable petty combats and disasters had been immense. The 
game had yet to be finished, and the spare time in which it 
could be conducted was drawing to an end. For Wellington 
was on the march, and ere long not a man from the Armies of 
the North or the Centre was to be available to aid Reille, 
Suchet, and Decaen in their unending and ungrateful task. 
Gone, too, were the days in which reserves without end could 
be poured in from France : the Russian war was about to open, 
and when once it began reinforcements were to be drawn from 
Spain rather than sent into it. The invasion had reached its 
high-water mark in January 1812 before the walls of Valencia 
and Alicante. 


TARIFA, DEC. 1811-JAN. 1812 

In the south-west no less than in the south-east of Spain 
the month of January 1812 was to witness the last offensive 
movement of the French armies of invasion. But while Suchet's 
advance ended, as we have seen, in a splendid success, that of 
Soult was to meet with a disastrous check. Neither marshal 
was to have another chance of taking the initiative — thanks, 
directly or indirectly, to the working out of Wellington's great 
plan of campaign for the New Year. 

In the previous volume the fortunes of Soult and the Army 
of Andalusia were narrated down to the first days of November 
1811, when Hill's raid into Estremadura, after the surprise of 
Arroyo dos Molinos, ended with his retreat within the borders 
of Portugal. That raid had inflicted a severe blow on Drouet's 
corps of observation, which formed Soult's right wing, and 
covered his communications with Badajoz. But its net result 
was only to restrict the activities of the French on this side to 
that part of Estremadura which lies south of the Guadiana. 
Hill had made no attempt to drive away Drouet's main body, 
or to blockade Badajoz, and had betaken himself to winter 
quarters about Elvas, Portalegre, and Estremos. Consequently 
Drouet was able to settle down opposite him once more, in 
equally widespread cantonments, with his right wing at Merida, 
and his left at Zafra, and to devote his attention to sending 
successive convoys forward to Badajoz, whenever the stores in 
that fortress showed signs of running low. Drouet's force no 
longer bore the name of the ' 5th Corps ' — all the old corps 
distinctions were abolished in the Southern Army this autumn, 
and no organization larger than that of the divisions was 
permitted to remain. The troops in Estremadura were simply 


for the future Drouet's and Daricau's divisions of the 4 Armee 
du Midi.' The composition of this 4 containing force,' whose 
whole purpose was now to observe Hill, was somewhat changed 
after midwinter : for the Emperor sent orders that the 34th 
and 40th regiments, the victims of Girard's carelessness at 
Arroyo dos Molinos, were to be sent home to France to recruit 
their much depleted ranks. They duly left Drouet, and marched 
off northward \ but they never got further than Burgos, where 
Dorsenne detained them at a moment of need, so that they 
became attached to the ' Army of the North,' and (after 
receiving some drafts) were involved in the operations against 
Wellington in the valley of the Douro. Two regiments from 
Andalusia (the 12th Leger and 45th Line) came up to replace 
them in Drouet's division, but even then the French troops in 
Estremadura did not exceed 13,500 men, if the garrison of 
Badajoz (about 5,000 strong) be deducted. This constituted 
a field-force insufficient to hold back Hill when next he should 
take the offensive ; but all through November and far into 
December Hill remained quiescent, by Wellington's orders, and 
his adversary clung to his advanced positions as long as he 
could, though much disturbed as to what the future might bring 

Of the remainder of Soult's army, the troops in front of Cadiz, 
originally the 1st Corps, had been cut down to an irreducible 
minimum, by the necessity for keeping flank-guards to either 
side, to watch the Spanish forces in the Condado de Niebla on the 
west and the mountains of Ronda on the south. Even including 
the marines and sailors of the flotilla, there were seldom 20,000 
men in the Lines, and the Spanish force in Cadiz and the Isle 
of Leon, stiffened by the Anglo-Portuguese detachment which 
Wellington always retained there, was often not inferior in 
numbers to the besiegers. The bombardment from the heavy 
Villoutreys mortars, placed in the works of the Matagorda 
peninsula, continued intermittently : but, though a shell 
occasionally fell in the city, no appreciable harm was done. 

1 Napoleon to Berthier, Dec. 30, 1811, speaks of the order to march 
having been already given. The two regiments were in Castile by March : 
when precisely they left Drouet I cannot say — perhaps as late as February. 


The inhabitants killed or injured by many months of shelling 
could be counted on the fingers of two hands. The citizens had 
come to take the occasional descent of a missile in their streets 
with philosophic calm, and sang a derisive street ditty which 
told how 

8 De las bombas que tiran los Gavachos 
Se hacen las Gaditanas tirabuzones.' 

4 The splinters of the bombs that the French threw served the 
ladies of Cadiz as weights to curl their hair V 

The Fort of Puntales, on the easternmost point of the 
isthmus that links Cadiz to the Isle of Leon, felt the bombard- 
ment more severely, but was never seriously injured, and 
always succeeded in keeping up an effective return fire. With 
the artillery of those days — even when mortars of the largest 
calibre, specially cast in the arsenal of Seville, were used — 
Cadiz was safe from any real molestation. 

Marshal Victor was still in command of the troops in the 
Lines at the end of 1811, but the Emperor gave orders for his 
return to France, when he ordered the Army of Andalusia to 
drop its organization into army-corps, and replaced them by 
divisions. He directed that the Marshal should set out at once, 
unless he was engaged in some serious enterprise at the moment 
that the summons arrived. This — as we shall see — chanced to 
be the case, and Victor was still hard at work in January, and 
did not leave Spain till early in April. 

The third main section of Soult's troops consisted of the two 
infantry and one cavalry divisions which had lately formed 
the 4th Corps, and had, since their first arrival in the South, 
been told off for the occupation of the kingdom of Granada. 
The whole of the coast and the inland from Malaga as far as 
Baza fell to their charge. The corps had been a strong one — 
16,000 foot and 4,000 horse — but was shortly to be reduced ; 
the order of December 30, recalling troops for the expected 
Russian war, took off the whole Polish infantry division of 
Dembouski, 5,000 bayonets : the regiment of Lancers of the 
Vistula, who had won such fame by their charge at Albuera, 

1 See Schepeler, p. 172. 


was also requisitioned, but did not get off till the autumn. But 
in the last month of the old year the Poles were still present 
and available, and Soult was far from expecting their departure. 
Yet even before they were withdrawn the garrison of the king- 
dom of Granada was by no means too strong for the work 
allotted to it. The greater part of its available field-force had 
been drawn to the south-west, to curb the insurrection of the 
Serranos of the Ronda mountains, and the inroads of Ballasteros. 
The forces left in Granada itself and the other eastern towns 
were so modest that Soult protested, and apparently with 
truth, that he could not spare from them even a small flying 
column of all arms, to make the demonstration against Murcia 
in assistance of Suchet's operations which the Emperor ordered 
him to execute. Nothing, as it will be remembered, was done 
in this direction during December and January, save the sending 
out of Pierre Soult's raid 1 , a mere affair of a single cavalry 

The total force of the Andalusian army was still in December 
as high as 80,000 men on paper. But after deducting the sick, the 
garrison of Badajoz — 5,000 men, — the troops of Drouet, entirely 
taken up with observing and containing Hill, the divisions in 
the Lines before Cadiz, and the obligatory garrisons of Granada, 
Malaga, Cordova, and other large towns, the surplus left over 
for active operations was very small. At the most ten or twelve 
thousand men, obtained by borrowing from all sides, could be 
formed to act as a central reserve, prepared to assist Drouet in 
Estremadura, Victor in the Cadiz region, or Leval in the East, 
as occasion might demand. During the two crises when Soult 
brought up his reserves to join Drouet, in the winter of 1811-12 
and the spring of 1812, their joint force did not exceed 25,000 
men. The Marshal was resolved to hold the complete circuit 
of Andalusia, the viceroyalty which brought him so much 
pride and profit ; and so long as he persisted in this resolve he 
could make no offensive move, for want of a field army of 
competent strength. 

Soult made some effort to supplement the strength of his 
garrisons by raising Spanish levies — both battalions and 
1 See above, p. 81. 


squadrons of regulars, and units for local service in the style of 
urban guards. The former ' Juramentados ' never reached 
any great strength : they were composed of deserters, or 
prisoners who volunteered service in order to avoid being 
sent to France. Occasionally there were as many as 5,000 under 
arms — usually less. The men for the most part disappeared 
at the first opportunity, and rejoined the national army or the 
guerrilleros : the officers were less prone to abscond, because 
they were liable to be shot as traitors on returning to their 
countrymen. Two or three cases are recorded of such renegades 
who committed suicide, when they saw themselves about to fall 
into the hands of Spanish troops . The urban guards or 
4 escopeteros ' were of a little more service, for the reason that, 
being interested in the preservation of their own families, 
goods, and houses, they would often prevent the entry into 
their towns of any roving Spanish force which showed itself 
for a moment. For if they admitted any small band, which 
went on its way immediately, and could make no attempt 
to defend them on the reappearance of the enemy, they were 
liable to be executed as traitors by the French, and their town 
would be fined or perhaps sacked. Hence it was to their 
interest, so long as Soult continued to dominate all Andalusia, 
to keep the guerrilleros outside their walls. But their service 
was, of course, unwilling ; and they were usually ready to yield 
on the appearance of any serious Spanish force, whose size 
was sufficient to excuse their submission in the eyes of Soult. 
Often a town was ostensibly held for King Joseph, but was 
privately supplying recruits, provisions, and money contribu- 
tions to the national cause. Nevertheless there were real 
4 Afrancesados ' in Andalusia, people who had so far committed 
themselves to the cause of King Joseph that they could not 
contemplate the triumph of the Patriots without terror. When 
Soult evacuated Andalusia in September 1812 several thousand 
refugees followed him, rather than face the vengeance of their 

1 One case is noted of a captain of the ' Juramentado ' detachment at 
Badajoz who blew himself from a gun when he saw the place taken (Lamare's 
Defense de Badajoz, p. 260). Carlos de Espana shot the other five Spanish 
officers captured on that occasion (Belmas, iv. p. 362). 


During the midwinter of 1811-12 Soult's main attention was 
taken up by a serious enterprise in the extreme south of his 
viceroyalty, which absorbed all the spare battalions of his 
small central reserve, and rendered it impossible for him to 
take the offensive in any other direction. This was the attempt 
to crush Ballasteros, and to capture Tarifa, which rendered his 
co-operation in Suchet's Valencian campaign impossible. 

General Ballasteros, as it will be remembered, had landed 
from Cadiz at Algeciras on September 4th, 1811, and had been 
much hunted during the autumn by detachments drawn both 
from the troops in the kingdom of Granada and those of Victor 1 . 
As many as 10,000 men were pressing him in October, when he 
had been forced to take refuge under the cannon of Gibraltar. 
But when want of food compelled the columns of Barrois, 
Semele, and Godinot to withdraw and to disperse, he had 
emerged from his refuge, had followed the retiring enemy, and 
had inflicted some damage on their rearguards [November 5, 
1811]. His triumphant survival, after the first concentrated 
movement made against him, had much provoked Soult, who 
saw the insurrectionary movement in southern Andalusia 
spreading all along the mountains, and extending itself towards 
Malaga on the one side and Arcos on the other. The Marshal, 
therefore, determined to make a serious effort to crush Ballas- 
teros, and at the same time to destroy one of the two bases 
from which he was wont to operate. Gibraltar was, of course, 
impregnable : but Tarifa, the other fortress at the southern end 
of the Peninsula, was not, and had proved from time to time 
, very useful to the Spaniards. It was now their only secure 
| foothold in southern Andalusia, and was most useful as a port 
i of call for vessels going round from Cadiz to the Mediterranean, 
especially for the large flotilla of British and Spanish sloops, 
; brigs, and gunboats, which obsessed the coast of Andalusia, 
I and made the use of routes by the seaside almost impracticable 
J for the enemy. Soult was at this time trying to open up 
communications with the Moors of Tangier, from whom he 
hoped to get horses for his cavalry, and oxen for the army before 
Cadiz. But he could not hope to accomplish anything in this 
way so long as Tarifa was the nest and victualling-place of 
1 See vol. iii. pp. 594-5. 


privateers, who lay thick in the straits only a few miles from the r 
coast of Morocco. 

The main reason for attacking Tarifa, however, was that it 
had recently become the head-quarters of a small Anglo-Spanish 
field-force, which had been molesting the rear of the lines 
before Cadiz. The place had not been garrisoned in 1810, 
when Soult first broke into Andalusia : but a few months after 
General Colin Campbell, governor of Gibraltar, threw into it 
a small force, that same battalion of flank-companies of the 
9th, 28th, 30th, and 47th Foot, which distinguished itself so 
much at Barrosa in the following year, when led by Colonel 
Brown of the 28th. This hard fighter had moved on with his 
regiment later in 1811, but his place had been taken by Major 
King of the 82nd — a one-legged officer of great energy and 
resolution 1 . The garrison was trifling down to October 1811, 
when General Campbell threw into Tarifa a brigade under 
Colonel Skerrett, consisting of the 2/47th and 2/87th, and some 
details 2 , making (with the original garrison) 1,750 British 
troops. Three days later the Spaniards sent in from Cadiz 
another brigade 3 of about the same strength, under General 
Copons. After the French expedition against Ballasteros had 
failed, Copons and Skerrett went out and drove from Vejer the 
southernmost outposts of Victor's corps in the Lines (Novem- 
ber 6th). A fortnight later they marched across the hills to 
Algeciras, and prepared to join Ballasteros in an attack on the 
French troops in the direction of Ronda, but returned to Tarifa 
on the news that Victor was showing a considerable force at 
Vejer, and threatening to cut them off from their base 4 . 
Ballasteros by himself was a sufficient nuisance to Soult, but 
when his operations began to be aided by another separate 

1 After the 28th went off, the flank-companies were those of the 2/1 lth, 
2/47th, and l/82nd, two from each battalion. 

2 2/47th (8 companies) 570 men, 2/87th (560 men), 1 company 95th 
(75 men), 70 2nd Hussars K.G.L., 1 field-battery (Captain Hughes) 
83 men, or in all 1,358 of all ranks. 

3 A battalion each of Irlanda and Cantabria, and some light companies 
of cazadores, with 120 gunners and 25 cavalry, amounting to about 1,650 
men (sick included). 

* For details of these operations see the anonymous Defence of Tarifa 
(London, 1812), and letters in Rait's Life of Lord Gough, i. pp. 69-70, 


J force, partly composed of British troops, the Duke of Dalmatia 

\ determined that a clean sweep must be made in southern 

The idea of capturing Tarifa did not appear by any means 
impracticable. This little decayed place of 6,000 souls had 
never been fortified in the modern style, and was surrounded 
by nothing more than a mediaeval wall eight feet thick, with 
square towers set in it at intervals. There was a citadel, the 
castle of Guzman El Bueno \ but this, too, was a thirteenth- 
century building, and the whole place, though tenable against 
an enemy unprovided with artillery, was reckoned helpless 
against siege-guns. It is described by one of its defenders 
as ' lying in a hole,' for it was completely commanded by 
a range of low heights, at no greater distance than 300 yards 
from its northern front. In the sea, half a mile beyond it, was 
a rocky island, connected with the mainland by a very narrow 
strip of sand, which was well suited to serve as a final place of 

i refuge for the garrison, and which had been carefully fortified. 

| It was furnished with batteries, of which one bore on the sand-spit 
1 and the town : a redoubt (Santa Catalina) had been erected at 
I the point where the isthmus joined the mainland : several 
buildings had been erected to serve as a shelter for troops, and 
a great series of caves (Cueva de los Moros) had been converted 
into casemates and store-rooms : they were perfectly safe 
against bombardment. In the eyes of many officers the island 
was the real stronghold, and the city was but an outwork to it, 
which might be evacuated without any serious damage to the 
strength of the defence. Nevertheless something had been 
done to improve the weak fortifications of the place : the 
convent of San Francisco, seventy yards from its northern point, 
had been entrenched and loopholed, to serve as a redoubt, and 
some of the square towers in the enceinte had been strengthened 
and built up so as to bear artillery. The curtain, however, was 
in all parts far too narrow and weak to allow of guns being placed 

1 This was the famous knight who, holding the place for King Sancho IV 
m 1294, refused to surrender it when the Moors brought his son, captured 
jin a skirmish, before the walls, and threatened to behead him if his father 
Refused to capitulate. Guzman would not yield, saw his son slain, and 
successfully maintained the fortress. 

OMAN. V t 


upon it, and there was no glacis and practically no ditch, the 
whole wall to its foot being visible from the heights which 
overlook the city on its eastern side. There were only twenty 
six guns available, and of these part belonged to the defences 
of the island. In the town itself there were only two heavy guns 
mounted on commanding towers, six field-pieces (9-pounders) 
distributed along the various fronts, and four mortars. When the 
siege actually began, the main defence was by musketry fire 
It was clear from the topography of Tarifa that its northern 
front, that nearest to and most completely commanded by thej 
hills outside, would be the probable point of attack by th 
enemy ; and long before the siege began preparations wer 
made for an interior defence. The buildings looking on th 
back of the ramparts were barricaded and loopholed, the narrow 
streets were blocked with traverses, and some ' entanglements 
were contrived with the iron window-bars requisitioned from 
all the houses of the town, which served as a sort of chevaux de 
frise. The outer enceinte was so weak that it was intended 
that the main defence should be in the network of streets. 
Special preparations were thought out for the right-centre oj 
the north front, where the walls are pierced by the ravine of 
a winter torrent of intermittent flow, called the Retire The 
point where it made its passage under the enceinte through 
a portcullis was the lowest place in the front, the walls sinking 
down as they followed the outline of the ravine. Wherefore 
palisades were planted outside the portcullis, entanglements 
behind it, and all the houses looking down on the torrent bed 
within the walls were prepared with loopholes commanding its 
course 1 . There was ample time for work, for while the first 
certain news that the French were coming arrived in November, 
the enemy did not actually appear before the walls till Decern 
ber 20. By that time much had been done, though the balance 
was only completed in haste after the siege had begun. 

The long delay of the enemy was caused by the abominable 
condition of the roads of the district — the same that had given 
Graham and La Pena so much trouble in February 1811 ° 

1 For these precautions, the work of Captain Charles Smith, R.E., 
the anonymous Defence of Tarifa (p. 62), and Napier, iv. pp. 59-60. 

2 See vol. iv. pp. 101-2. 


moreover, any considerable concentration of troops in southern 
Andalusia raised a food problem for Soult. The region 
round Tarifa is very thinly inhabited, and it was clear 
that, if a large army were collected, it would have to carry 
its provisions with it, and secure its communication with its 
base, under pain of falling into starvation within a few days. 
Heavy guns abounded in the Cadiz lines, and Soult had no 
trouble in selecting a siege-train of sixteen pieces from them : 
but their transport and that of their ammunition was a serious 
problem. To complete the train no less than 500 horses had 
to be requisitioned from the field artillery and military wagons 
of the 1st Corps. While it was being collected, Victor moved 
forward to Vejer, near the coast, half-way between Cadiz and 
Tarifa, with 2,000 men, in order to clear the country-side from 
the guerrillero bands, who made survey of the roads difficult 
; and dangerous. Under cover of escorts furnished by him, 
several intelligence officers inspected the possible routes : there 
| were two, both passing through the mountainous tract between 
I the sea and the lagoon of La Janda (which had given Graham 
iso much trouble in the last spring). One came down to the 
waterside at the chapel of Virgen de la Luz, only three miles 
from Tarifa, but was reported to be a mere mule-track. The 
| other, somewhat more resembling a road, descended to the 
l shore several miles farther to the north, and ran parallel with it 
Ifor some distance. But in expectation of the siege, the Spaniards, 
with help from English ships, had blown up many yards of this 
road, where it was narrowest between the water and the 
imountain. Moreover, ships of war were always stationed off 
ITarifa, and their guns would make passage along this defile 
[dangerous. Nevertheless General Garbe, the chief French 
( engineer, held that this was the only route practicable for 
artillery, and reported that the road could be remade, and that 
the flotilla might be kept at a distance by building batteries on 
the shore, which would prevent any vessel from coming close 
enough to deliver an effective fire. It was determined, therefore, 
chat the siege-train should take this path, which for the first 
aalf of its way passes close along the marshy borders of the 

agoon of La Janda, and then enters the hills in order to 

lescend to the sea at Torre Pena. 

I 2 


On December 8th the siege-train was concentrated at Vejer, 
and in the hope that it would in four days (or not much more) 
reach its destination before Tarifa, Victor gave orders for the 
movement of the troops which were to conduct the siege. Of 
this force the smaller part, six battalions * and two cavalry 
regiments, was drawn from Leval's command, formerly the 
4th Corps. These two divisions had also to provide other 
detachments to hold Malaga in strength, and watch Ballasteros. 
The troops from the blockade of Cadiz supplied eight battalions 2 , 
and three more to keep up communications 3 ; one additional 
regiment was borrowed from the brigade in the kingdom of 
Cordova, which was always drawn upon in times of special 
need 4 . The whole force put in motion was some 15,000 men, 
but only 10,000 actually came before Tarifa and took part in 
the siege. 

The various columns, which were under orders to march, 
came from distant points, and had to concentrate. Barrois lay 
at Los Barrios, inland from Algeciras, with six battalions from 
the Cadiz lines, watching Ballasteros, who had once more fallen 
back under shelter of the guns of Gibraltar. To this point 
Leval came to join him, with the 3,000 men drawn from Malaga j 
and Granada. The third column, under Victor himself, con- 
sisting of the siege-train and the battalions told off for its 
escort, came from the side of Vejer. All three were to meet 1 
before Tarifa : but from the first start difficulties began to arise 
owing to the bad weather. 

The winter, which had hitherto been mild and equable, broke 
up into unending rain-storms on the day appointed for the 
start, and the sudden filling of the torrents in the mountains, 1 
cut the communications between the columns. Leval, who had 
got as far as the pass of Ojen, in the range which separates the 
district about Algeciras and Los Barrios from the Tarifa region, 
was forced to halt there for some days : but his rear, a brigade 1 
under Cassagne, could not come forward to join him, nor did 

1 Two battalions each of 43rd Line and 7th and 9th Poles, and 16th and 
21st Dragoons. 

2 Three of 16th Leger, two of 54th Line, one each of 27th Leger and 
94th and 95th Line. 

3 Two of 63rd and one of 8th Line. 

4 51st Line. 


the convoy-column succeed in advancing far from Vejer. 
Victor sent three successive officers with escorts to try to get 
into touch with Cassagne, but each returned without having 
been able to push through. It was not till the 12th that a fourth 
succeeded in reaching the belated column, which only got under 
way that day and joined on the following afternoon. The 
siege-train was not less delayed, and was blocked for several 
days by the overflowing of the lagoon of La Janda, along whose 
shore its first stages lay. It only struggled through to the south 
end of the lagoon on the 14th, and took no less than four days 
more to cover the distance of sixteen miles across the hills to 
Torre Pena, where the road comes down to the sea. Forty horses, 
it is said, had to be harnessed to each heavy gun to pull it 
through \ Much of the ammunition was spoilt by the rain, 
which continued to fall intermittently, and more had to be 
requisitioned from the Cadiz lines, and to be brought forward 
by supplementary convoys. 

These initial delays went far to wreck the whole scheme, 
because of the food problem. Each of the columns had to 
bring its own provisions with it, and, when stopped on the road, 
consumed stores that had been intended to serve it during the 
siege. The distance from Vejer to Tarifa is only thirty miles, and 
from Los Barrios to Tarifa even less : but the columns, which 
had been ordered to march on December 8th, did not reach 
their destination till December 20th, and the communications 
behind them were cut already, not by the enemy but by the vile 
weather, which had turned every mountain stream into a torrent, 
and every low-lying bottom into a marsh. The column with 
the siege artillery arrived two days later : it had got safely 
through the defile of Torre Pena : the sappers had repaired the 
road by the water, and had built a masked battery for four 
; 12-pounders and two howitzers, whose fire kept off from the 
dangerous point several Spanish and English gunboats which 
came up to dispute the passage. The column from the pass 
of Ojen had been somewhat delayed in its march by a sally 
of Ballasteros, who came out from the Gibraltar lines on the 
17th-18th and fell upon its rear with 2,000 men. He drove in 
the last battalion, but when Barrois turned back and attacked 
For details of this toilsome march see Belmas, iv. pp. 15-17. 


him with a whole brigade, the Spaniard gave way and retreated 
in haste to San Roque. Nevertheless, by issuing from his 
refuge and appearing in the open, he had cut the communications 
between the army destined for the siege and the troops at 
Malaga. At the same time that Ballasteros made this diversion, 
Skerrett, with his whole brigade and a few of Copons's Spaniards, 
had issued from Tarifa to demonstrate against the head of the 
approaching French column, and advanced some distance on 
the road to Fascinas, where his handful of hussars bickered 
with the leading cavalry in the enemy's front. Seeing infantry 
behind, he took his main body no farther forward than the 
convent of Nuestra Senora de la Luz, three miles from the 
fortress. On the 19th the French showed 4,000 men on the 
surrounding hills, and on the 20th advanced in force in two 
columns, and pushed the English and Spanish pickets into 
Tarifa, after a long skirmish in which the British had 31, the 
Spaniards about 40 casualties, while the French, according 
to Leval's report, lost only 1 officer and 3 men killed and 
27 wounded. By four in the afternoon the place was invested — 
the French pickets reaching from sea to sea, and their main 
body being encamped behind the hills which command the 
northern side of Tarifa. They could not place themselves near 
the water, owing to the fire of two British frigates and a swarm 
of gunboats, which lay in-shore, and shelled their flanks all day, 
though without great effect. 

Copons and Skerrett had divided the manning of the town and 
island between their brigades on equal terms, each keeping two 
battalions in the town and a third in the island and the minor 
posts. Of the British the 47th and 87th had the former, King's 
battalion of flank-companies (reinforced by 70 marines landed 
from the ships) the latter charge. The convent of San Francisco 
was held by a company of the 82nd, the redoubt of Santa 
Catalina on the isthmus by one of the 11th. Seeing the French 
inactive on the 21st — they were waiting for the siege-train 
which was not yet arrived — Skerrett sent out three companies 
to drive in their pickets, and shelled the heights behind which 
they were encamped. On the following day the sortie was 
repeated, by a somewhat larger force under Colonel Gough 
of the 87th, covered by a flanking fire from the gunboats. The 


right wing of the French pickets was driven in with some loss, 
and a house too near the Santa Catalina redoubt demolished. 
The besiegers lost 3 men killed and 4 officers and 19 men 
wounded, mainly from the 16th Leger. The sallying troops 
had only 1 man killed and 5 wounded (2 from the 11th, 4 from 
the 87th). That night the siege-train arrived, and was parked 
behind the right-hand hill of the three which face the northern 
side of Tarifa. 

The engineer officers who had come up with the siege-train 
executed their survey of the fortress next morning, and reported 
(as might have been expected) that it would be best to attack 
the central portion of the north front, because the ground facing 
it was not exposed to any fire from the vessels in-shore, as was 
the west front, and could only be searched by the two or three 
guns which the besieged had mounted on the towers of Jesus 
and of Guzman, the one in the midst of the northern front, the 
other in a dominating position by the castle, at the southern 
corner. However, the 24-pounders on the island, shooting 
over the town, could throw shells on to the hillside where the 
French were about to work, though without being able to 
judge of their effect. 

On the night of the 23rd the French began their first parallel, 
on their right flank of the central hill, at a distance of 300 yards 
from the walls : the approaches to it needed no spadework, 
being completely screened by a ravine and a thick aloe hedge. 
The besieged shelled it on the succeeding day, but with small 
effect — only 3 workers were killed and 4 wounded. On the 24th 
a minor front of attack was developed on the left-hand hill, 
where a first parallel was thrown up about 250 yards from the 
walls. The gunboats on the southern shore fired on this work 
when it was discovered, but as it was invisible to them, and 
as they could only shoot at haphazard, by directions signalled 
from the town, they generally failed to hit the mark, and did 
little to prevent the progress of the digging. The besiegers only 
lost 4 killed and 25 wounded this day, and on the original 
point of attack were able to commence a second parallel, in 
which there was marked out the place for the battery which 
was destined to breach the town wall at the lowest point of its 
circuit, just south of the bed of the Retiro torrent. 


On the two following days the French continued to push 
forward with no great difficulty ; they completed the second 
parallel on the centre hill, parts of which were only 180 yards 
from the town. On the left or eastern hill the trenches were 
continued down the inner slope, as far as the bottom of the 
ravine, so as almost to join those of the right attack. On the 
26th a violent south-east gale began to blow, which compelled 
the British and Spanish gunboats to quit their station to the 
right of Tarifa, lest they should be driven ashore, and to run 
round to the west side of the island which gave them shelter from 
wind coming from such a quarter. The French works were, 
therefore, only molested for the future by the little 6-pounders 
on the north-east (or Corchuela) tower, and the heavy guns firing 
at a high trajectory from the island and the tower of Guzman. 

But the gale was accompanied by rain, and this, beginning 1 
with moderate showers on the 26th, developed into a steady, 
downpour on the 27th and 28th, and commenced to make the 
spadework in the trenches more laborious, as the sappers were 
up to their ankles in mud, and the excavated earth did not| 
bind easily into parapets owing to its semi-liquid condition. 
Nevertheless the plans of the engineers were carried out, and 
two batteries were finished and armed on the central hill, one 
lower down to batter the walls, the other higher up, to deal 
with the guns of the besieged and silence them if possible. The 
French lined all the advanced parallel with sharpshooters, 
who kept up a heavy fire on the ramparts, and would 
have made it difficult for the garrison to maintain a reply,; 
if a large consignment of sandbags had not been received from 1 
Gibraltar, with which cover was contrived for the men on the 
curtain, and the artillery in the towers. 

At eleven o'clock on the morning of the 29th the two French I 
batteries opened \ with twelve heavy guns. The weakness of 
the old town wall at once became evident : the first shot fired ! 
went completely through it, and lodged in a house to its rear.! 
Before evening there was a definite breach produced, just south 

1 The breaching battery on the lower slope with four 16- and twoi 
12-pounders : the upper battery with four howitzers for high-trajectory! 
fire against the more distant guns of the besieged and the island, and! 
two 12-pounders. 


of the Retiro ravine, and it was clear that the enemy would be 
able to increase it to any extent that he pleased — the masonry 
fell to pieces the moment that it was well pounded. The two 
small field-guns on the tower of Jesus were silenced by 

3 o'clock, and the heavy gun on Guzman's tower also ceased 
firing — of which more anon. By night only the distant guns 
on the island, and the ships in the south-western bay, were 
making an effective reply to the French. 

This, from the psychological point of view, was the critical 
day of the siege, for on the clear demonstration of the weakness 
of the walls, Colonel Skerrett, who had never much confidence 
in his defences, proposed to evacuate the city of Tarifa. At 
a council of officers he argued in favour of withdrawing the 
garrison into the island, and making no attempt to hold the 
weak mediaeval walls which the French were so effectively 
battering. This would have been equivalent, in the end, to 
abandoning the entire foothold of the British on this point of 
the coast. For there was on the island no cover for troops, save 
two or three recently erected buildings, and the recesses of the 

4 Cueva de los Moros.' Some of the inhabitants had already 
taken refuge there, and were suffering great privations, from 
being exposed to the weather in tents and hastily contrived 
huts. It is clear that if 3,000 men, British and Spanish, had 
been lodged on the wind-swept rocks of the island, it would soon 
have been necessary to withdraw them ; however inaccessible 
the water-girt rock, with its low cliffs, might be, no large body 
of troops could have lived long upon it, exposed as they would 

; have been not only to wind and wet, but to constant molestation 
: by heavy guns placed in and about the city and the hills that 
dominate it. Meanwhile the French would have possessed the 
, excellent cover of the houses of Tarifa, and would have effec- 
tively blocked the island by leaving a garrison to watch the 
causeway, the only possible exit from it. It is certain that the 
J abandonment of the island would have followed that of the 
< town within a few days : indeed Skerrett had already obtained 
i leave from General Cooke, then commanding at Cadiz, to bring 
his brigade round to that port as soon as he should feel it 
I necessary. He regarded the evacuation of the place as so 
certain, that he ordered the 18 -pounder gun on Guzman's tower 


to be spiked this day, though it was the only piece of heavy 
calibre in the city 1 — the reason given was that one of its missiles 
(spherical case-shot) had fallen short within the streets, and 
killed or wounded an inhabitant. But the real cause was that 
he had fully decided on abandoning Tarifa that night or the 
following day, and thought the moving of such a big gun in 
a hurry impossible — it had been hoisted with great difficulty 
to its place by the sailors, with cranes and tackle 2 . 

Skerrett stated his decision in favour of the evacuation at the 
council of war, produced General Cooke's letter supporting his 
plan, and stated that Lord Proby, his second in command, 
concurred in the view of its necessity. Fortunately for the 
credit of the British arms, his opinion was boldly traversed by 
Captain C. F. Smith, the senior engineer officer, Major King 
commanding the Gibraltar battalion of flank-companies, and 
Colonel Gough of the 87th. The former urged that the town 
should be defended, as an outwork of the island, to the last 
possible moment : though the breach was practicable, he had 
already made arrangements for cutting it off by retrenchments 
from the body of the town. The streets had been blocked and 
barricaded, and all the houses looking upon the back of the 
walls loopholed. Tarifa could be defended for some time in 
the style of Saragossa, lane by lane. He pointed out that such 
was the configuration of the ground that if the enemy entered 
the breach, he would find a fourteen-foot drop between its rear 
and the ground below, on to which he would have to descend 
under a concentric fire of musketry from all the neighbouring 
buildings. Even supposing that the worst came, the garrison 
had the castle to retire into, and this was tenable until breached 
by artillery, while a retreat from it to the island would always 
be possible, under cover of the guns of the flotilla. There was 
no profit or credit in giving up outworks before they were forced. 
Major King concurred, and said that his battalion, being 

1 According to some authorities he also spiked a 32-lb. carronade. 
See Defence of Tarifa, p. 63. 

2 The author of the Defence of Tarifa pretends not to know the real 
story (p. 63), saying that the spiking caused much ' indignation, apprehen- 
sion, and discontent,' and that ' whence the order proceeded is unknown.' 
For the explanation see the letter from an officer of the garrison in Napier, 
iv, Appendix, p. 438. 



Gibraltar troops, was under the direct orders of General Camp- 
bell, from whom he had received directions to hold Tarifa till 
the last extremity. If Skerrett's brigade should embark, he and 
the flank-companies would remain behind, to defend it, along 
with Copons's Spaniards. Gough concurred in the decision, and 
urged that the evacuation would be wholly premature and ' con- 

I trary to the spirit of General Campbell's instructions ' until it 
was seen whether the French were able to effect a lodgement 

| inside the walls 1 . 

Skerrett's resolve was shaken — he still held to his opinion, but 
dismissed the council of war without coming to a decision : 

! he tried to avoid responsibility by requesting the officers who 
voted for further resistance to deliver him their opinions in 

; writing. This King, Smith, and Gough did, in the strongest 

! wording. The first named of these three resolute men sent that 
same night a messenger by boat to Gibraltar, to inform General 
Campbell of Skerrett's faint-hearted decision, and to observe 
that, with a few companies more to aid his own flank-battalion 
and the Spaniards, he would try to hold first Tarifa and then the 
island, even if Skerrett withdrew his brigade. Campbell, angry 
in no small degree, sent a very prompt answer to the effect 
that the town should not be abandoned without the concurrence 
of the commanding officers of artillery and engineers, while the 
Gibraltar battalion should be concentrated in the island, in 
order to ensure its defence even if Tarifa itself fell. Still more 
drastic was an order to the officers commanding the transports 
to bring their ships back at once to Gibraltar : this decisive 
move made it impossible for Skerrett to carry out his plan 2 . 
A few days later Campbell sent two more flank-companies to 
join the garrison — but they only arrived after the assault. 

The idea of evacuating the town without attempting any 
defence was all the more ignominious because Copons had 
declared his intention of holding it to the last, had protested 
against the spiking of the heavy gun in Guzman's tower, and 

Gough speaks of his reply that 4 evacuation would be contrary to the 
spirit of General Campbell's instructions,' as if given at an earlier date, but, 
the 29th seems fixed by King's letter to Napier in appendix to the latter' s 
Peninsular War, iv. pp. 443-4, quoted above. 

See especially the notes from officers on the spot in Napier's appendix 
to vol. iv. pp. 442-4. 


next morning, when Leval summoned the place to surrender, 
sent in a most unhesitating, if somewhat bombastic \ note of 
refusal. If Skerrett had withdrawn into the island, or taken 
to his ships, and Copons had been overwhelmed, righting in the 
streets, the disgrace to the British flag would have been very 
great. As a sidelight on the whole matter, we may remember 
that this was the same officer who had refused to land his troops 
to defend the breach of Tarragona six months before. He was 
no coward, as he showed in many fights, and he died gallantly 
at Bergen-op-Zoom in 1814, but he was undoubtedly a shirker 
of responsibilities. 

On the morning of the 30th the besiegers' batteries opened 
again, and enlarged the breach to a broad gap of thirty feet or 
more ; they also dismounted a field-piece which the besieged 
had hoisted on the Jesus tower, to replace those injured on the 
previous day. At midday Leval sent in the summons already 
recorded, and receiving Copons's uncompromising reply, directed 
the fire to continue. It was very effective, and by evening the 
breach was nearly sixty feet long, occupying almost the whole 
space between the tower at the portcullis over the ravine, and 
that next south of it. At dusk the garrison crept out to clear 
the foot of the breach, and began also to redouble the inner 
defences in the lanes and houses behind it. All work on both 
sides, however, was stopped, shortly after nightfall, by a most 
torrential downpour of rain, which drove the French from their 
batteries and the English and Spaniards from their repairing 
The sky seemed to be falling — the hillsides became cataracts, 
and the Retiro ravine was soon filled with a broad river which 
came swirling against the walls, bearing with it fascines, 
planks, gabions, and even dead bodies washed out of the French 
lines. Presently the mass of debris, accumulating against the 
palisades erected in front of the portcullis, and urged on by 
the water, swept away these outer defences, and then, pressing 
against the portcullis itself, bent it inwards and twisted it, 
despite of its massive iron clamps, so as to make an opening 

1 * Sin duda ignorara V.S. que me hallo yo en esta plaza, cuando „. 
prononce a su gubcrnador que admite una capitulacion. A la cabeza de, 
mis tropas me encontrara V.S. y entonces hableremos.' See Arteche, 1 
appendix to vol. xi. p. 524. 


into the town, down which everything went swimming through 
the ravine. The flood also swept away some of the defensive 
works on each side of the depression. When the hurricane was 
over, the rain still continued to fall heavily, but the garrison, 
emerging from shelter, commenced to repair their works, and 
had undone much of the damage by daylight \ 

If the besieged had been sorely incommoded by the tempest, 
the besiegers on the bare hillsides had been still worse tried. 
They had been forced to abandon their trenches and batteries, 
of which those high up the slope were water-logged, while those 
below had been largely swept away by the flood. The breach 
had been pronounced practicable by the engineers, and an 
assault had been fixed for dawn. But it was necessary to put 
it off for some hours, in order to allow the artillery to reoccupy 
their batteries, and recommence their fire, and the infantry 
to come up from the camps where they had vainly tried to 
shelter themselves during the downpour. Nevertheless the 
French commanders resolved to storm as soon as the men 
could be assembled, without waiting for further preparations. 
' The troops,' says the French historian of the siege, ■ unable 
to dry themselves, or to light fires to cook their rations, loudly 
cried out for an assault, as the only thing that could put an 
end to their misery.' A large force had been set apart for the 
storm, the grenadier and voltigeur companies of each of the 
battalions engaged in the sieges, making a total of over 2,200 
men. They were divided into two columns — the grenadiers 
were to storm the breach ; the voltigeurs to try whether the gap 
at the Portcullis tower was practicable or not : they were to 
break in if possible, if not, to engage the defenders in a fusilade 
which should distract their attention from the main attack. 

As soon as day dawned, the besieged could detect that the 
trenches were filling, and that the storm was about to break. 
They had time to complete their dispositions before the French 
moved : the actual breach was held by Copons with a battalion 
of his own troops 2 : the 87th, under Gough, occupied the walls 

1 For this, see Jones, Sieges of the Peninsula, ii. p. 477, from which Napier 
copies his narrative, iv. p. 55. 

2 Their part in the defence must not be denied to the Spaniards. Napier, 
with his usual prejudice, remarks (i v. p. 60) that Skerrett ' assigned the charge 


both to right and left of the breach, including the Portcullis tower, 
with two companies in reserve. Captain Levesey with 100 of 
the 47th was posted in the south-eastern (Jesus) tower, which 
completely enfiladed the route which the enemy would have 
to take to the foot of the breach. The rest of the 47th was in 
charge of the south front of the town. 

At nine o'clock the column of French grenadiers issued from 
the trenches near the advanced breaching battery, and dashed 
down the side of the Retiro ravine towards the breach, while 
the voltigeur companies, at the same time, running out from 
the approaches on the eastern hill, advanced by the opposite 
side of the ravine towards the Portcullis tower. Demonstrations 
to right and left were made by Cassagne's brigade on one flank 
and Pecheux's on the other. The progress of the storming 
column was not rapid — the slopes of the ravine were rain-sodden 
and slippery ; its bottom (where the flood had passed) was two 
feet deep in mud. The troops were forced to move slowly, and 
the moment that they were visible from the walls they became 
exposed to a very heavy fire of musketry, both from the curtain 
and the enfilading towers on each of their flanks. Of guns the 
besieged had only one available — a field-piece in the northern- 
most (or Corchuela) tower, which fired case-shot diagonally along 
the foot of the walls. 

Nevertheless the French grenadiers pushed forward across 
the open space towards the breach, under a rain of bullets from 
the 87th which smote them on both flanks. The Fusiliers were 
firing fast and accurately, to the tune of Garry Owen, which the 
regimental band was playing by order of Gough just behind the 
breach, accompanied by bursts of shouts and cheering. On 
arriving at the foot of the walls, in great disorder, the French) 
column hesitated for a moment ; many men began to fire 
instead of pressing on, but some bold spirits scaled the rough 
slope of the breach and reached its lip — only to get a momentary 
glimpse of the fourteen-foot drop behind it, and to fall dead. 

of the breach entirely to the Spaniards, and if Smith had not insisted upon i 
placing British troops alongside of them this would have ruined the! 
defence, because hunger and neglect had so broken the spirit of these poor 
men that few appeared during the combat, and Copons alone displayed the) 
qualities of a gallant soldier.' 


The bulk of the column then swerved away to its right, and fell 
upon the palisades and other defences in front of the Portcullis 
tower, where the hasty repairs made after the flood of the 
preceding night did not look effective. Apparently many of the 
voltigeurs who had been already engaged in this quarter joined 
in their assault, which surged over the outer barricades and 
penetrated as far as the portcullis itself. It was found too well 
repaired to be broken down, and the stormers, crowded in 
front of it, and caught in an angle between the front wall 
defended by the 87th, and the flanking Jesus tower from which 
the 47th were firing, found the corner too hot for them, and 
suddenly recoiled and fled. The officer at the head of the 
forlorn hope gave up his sword to Gough through the bars of the 
portcullis, which alone separated them, and many other men 
at the front of the column also surrendered, rather than face 
the point-blank fire at close range which would have accom- 
panied the first stage of their retreat. 

This was a striking instance of an assault on a very broad 
i breach, by a strong force, being beaten off by musketry fire 
alone. The French seem never to have had a chance in face 
of the steady resistance of the 87th and their comrades. Their 
loss is given by the official French historian at only 48 killed and 
159 wounded, which seems an incredibly low figure when over 
2,000 men were at close quarters with the besieged, in a very 
disadvantageous position, for some time \ The British lost 
1 2 officers and 7 men killed, 3 officers, 2 sergeants, and 22 men 
wounded : the Spaniards had a lieutenant-colonel killed and 
! about 20 men killed and wounded. 

Skerrett and Copons estimated the loss of the enemy at nearly 500, no 
doubt an exaggeration. But Leval's 207 seems far too few. The com- 
manding officer of the 51st Ligne reports from his four flank-companies 
7 officers and 81 men hit (Belmas, iv, Appendix, p. 58). Of the sapper 
detachment which led the column, from 50 men 43 were hors de combat 
(Belmas, iv. p. 31). It seems incredible that when 23 companies took part 
in the assault 5 of them should have suffered 131 casualties out of a total 
|of 207. Martinien's tables show 18 officers killed and wounded on Dec. 31, 
ia figure which proves nothing, for though at the usual casualty rate of 
)20 men per officer this would imply a total loss of 360, yet it is well known 
jthat in assaults the officers often suffer a loss out of all proportion to that 
pf the rank and file. Eighteen officers hit might be compatible with a loss 
as low as 200 or as high as 400 in such a case. 


The assault having failed so disastrously, the spirits of the 
besiegers sank to a very low pitch. The rain continued to fall 
during the whole day and the following night, and the already 
water-logged trenches became quite untenable. On New Year's 
Day, 1812, the dawn showed a miserable state of affairs — not 
only were the roads to the rear, towards Fascinas and Vejer, 
entirely blocked by the swelling of mountain torrents, but 
communications were cut even between the siege-camps. All 
the provision of powder in the siege-batteries was found to be 
spoilt by wet, and a great part of the cartridges of the infantry. 
Nearly a third of the horses of the train had perished from cold 
combined with low feeding. No rations were issued to the 
troops that day, and on the three preceding days only incom- 
plete ones had been given, because of the impossibility of getting 
them up from the reserve depot, and many of the men wandered 
without leave for three miles to the rear in search of food or 
shelter. An exploring party of the 47th pushing out into the 
trenches found them quite unguarded 1 and full of water. Leval 
wrote a formal proposal for the abandonment of the siege to his 
chief, Victor, saying that the only choice was to save the army 
by retreat, or to see it perish in a few days if it remained 
stationary 2 . The Marshal, however, refused to turn back from 
an enterprise in which he considered his honour involved, and 
the tempest having abated on the night of Jan. 2nd-3rd, ordered 
the batteries and approaches to be remanned, and directed 
that an attempt should be made to sap forward toward the Jesus 
tower from the left advanced trenches. The work done was 
feeble — the batteries had fired only fifty shots by evening, and 
the repairs to the damaged works were very incomplete. 

Even Victor's obstinacy yielded, however, when on the night 
of the 3rd-4th January another furious storm arose, and once 
more stopped all possibility of continuing operations. No food 
had now come up from the base for many days, and the stores 
at the front being exhausted, the Marshal saw that it was 
necessary to march at once. An attempt was made to with- 
draw the guns from the batteries, but only one 12-pounder and 
two howitzers were got off — the horses were so weak and the 

1 Defence of Tarifa, p. 47. 

a See the letter in Belmas, iv. pp. 55-6. 


ft.V.SSouJ^S^e, Ckiprdl, \<MH- 

Scale of Yards 



ground so sodden that even when 200 infantry were set to help, 
most of the pieces could not be dragged more than a few yards. 
Wherefore the attempt was given over, the powder in the 
batteries was thrown open to the rain, the balls rolled into the 
Retiro ravine, the nine remaining heavy guns spiked. 

On the night of the 4th-5th the army crawled off on the road 
to Vejer, abandoning nearly all its material in its camps. An 
attempt was made to fire a mass of abandoned vehicles, but 
the rain stopped it. Next morning the French were passing the 
defile of Torre Pena, under the not very effective fire of an 
English frigate, which kept as close to the shore as was possible 
on a very rough day. The four guns from the battery at this 
point were brought on, with much toil, and no wounded were 
abandoned. On the 6th the column reached Tay villa, where 
it found a convoy and 100 horses, which were of inestimable 
value, for those with the field-force were completely spent. 
Nevertheless the one 12-pounder brought off from Tarifa was 
abandoned in the mud. On the 7th Vejer was reached, and the 
expedition was at an end. The troops of Victor's division, after 
a short rest, went back to the Cadiz Lines, those of Leval's 
division marched for Xeres. 

Thus ended the leaguer of Tarifa, which cost the besiegers 
about 500 lives, more by sickness than by casualties in the 
trenches. There were also some deserters — fifteen Poles came 
over in a body and surrendered to Captain Carroll on the 3rd x , 
and other individuals stole in from time to time. But the main 
loss to the French, beyond that of prestige, was that the 
battalions which had formed part of the expeditionary force 
were so tired out and war-worn, that for several weeks they 
continued to fill the hospitals in the Lines with sick, and were 
incapable of further active service. Wherefore Soult could not 
send any appreciable detachment to help Suchet on the side 
of Valencia : the cavalry brigade, which sacked Murcia on 
January 26 and killed La Carrera, 2 was his only contribution 
to the operations on the east side of Spain. The field-force 
which might otherwise have accompanied Pierre Soult's cavalry 
raid had been used up in the Tarifa expedition. 

1 Defence of Tarifa, p. 75. 

2 See page 8 above. 




Another distraction had come upon Soult while the Tarifa 
expedition was in progress. On December 27, six days after 
Victor and Leval commenced the siege, General Hill had once 
more begun to move on the Estremaduran side, after remaining 
quiescent for nearly two months since the surprise of Arroyo 
dos Molinos. His advance was a diversion made by Wellington's 
direct orders, with the purpose of drawing Soult's attention 
away from the pursuit of Ballasteros and the molesting of 
Tarifa 1 . It failed to achieve the latter purpose, since the 
operations of Victor had gone so far, before Hill moved, that 
the Marshal stood committed to the siege, and indeed only 
heard that Hill was on the move after the assault of Decem- 
ber 31st had been made and beaten off. But it caused Soult 
to cut off all support from Victor, to turn his small remaining 
reserves in the direction of Estremadura, and to welcome as 
a relief, rather than to deplore as a disaster, the return of the 
defeated expeditionary force to the Lines of Cadiz on January 7th. 
For about that date Hill was pushing Drouet before him, and 
the reserves from Seville were moving northwards, so that! 
Soult was pleased to learn that the 10,000 men from Tarifa had 
returned, and that, in consequence of their reappearance, he 
could draw off more men from the direction of Cadiz to replace! 
the troops moved toward Estremadura. 

Hill crossed the Portuguese frontier north of the Guadianaj 
on December 27th, with his own division, Hamilton's Portu-j 
guese, two British cavalry brigades (those of Long and de Grey 2 )| 
and one of Portuguese (4th and 10th regiments under J. Camp- 
bell of the former corps), or about 12,000 men. The small 
remainder of his force 3 was left about Elvas, to watch am 
possible movement of the French from the direction of Badajoz. 
His objective was Merida, where it was known that Dom- 
brouski, with the greater part of the 5th French Division, was 
lying, in a position far advanced from the main body of Drouet's 
troops, who were cantoned about Zafra and Llerena. There 
was some hope of surprising this force, and a certainty of driving 
it in, and of throwing Drouet and Soult into a state of alan 

1 Sec Wellington to Hill, Dec. 18th, Dispatches, ix. pp. 465-6. 

* But the last-named officer was absent. 

* One Portuguese infantry and one Portuguese cavalry brigade. 


Wellington directed Hill to keep to the desolate road north of 

the Guadiana, because a winter raid from this direction would 

be the last thing expected by the enemy. He bade his lieutenant 

keep a wary eye in the direction of Truxillo and Almaraz, from 

which the divisions of Marmont's army then in New Castile 

might possibly descend upon his rear. But the warning turned 

out to be superfluous, since, before Hill moved, Marmont had 

! been forced by the Emperor's orders to detach his troops on the 

Tagus for the ruinous expedition under Montbrun to Alicante. 

Marching very rapidly Hill reached Albuquerque on the 27th, 

and La Rocca, only twenty miles from Merida, on the 28th. 

On the next day * the prospect of surprising Dombrouski came 

jto an end by the merest of chances. The French general had 

! sent out that morning a small column to raise requisitions of 

food in the villages on this road. A troop of hussars at its head 

| discovered Hill's advanced cavalry, near Navas de Membrillo, 

J and alarmed the infantry, three companies of the 88th regiment 

! under a Captain Neveux, who formed up and began to retreat 

! hastily towards Merida. Hill sent two squadrons each of the 

1 13th Light Dragoons and 2nd Hussars of the King's German 

1 Legion in pursuit, with orders to head off and capture, if possible, 

J these 400 men. The result was a combat of the same sort as 

| that of Barquilla in 1810, where it had already been shown that 

steady infantry could not be ridden down by cavalry save 

; under very exceptional circumstances. Neveux, seeing the 

! dragoons hurrying forward, turned off the road, formed his 

men in square, and made for a cork wood on a rising ground. 

The cavalry overtook him, and delivered five determined 

charges, which were all beaten off with heavy loss. We are 

told that their order and impetus were both broken by scattered 

trees outside the wood, but the main cause of their defeat was 

the impossibility of breaking into a solidly-formed square of 

determined men, well commanded 2 . After the final charge the 

1 Napier (iv. 49) wrongly puts the combat of Navas de Membrillo on 
the 28th of December, not the 29th. The diaries of Stoltzenberg of the 
2nd K.G.L. Hussars and Cadell of the 28th prove that the second date 
is correct. No force could have marched from Albuquerque to Navas 
in one day. 

Hill's dispatch has a handsome but ungrammatical testimony to the 
enemy : ' the intrepid and admirable way in which the French retreated, 

K 2 


squadrons drew off, and Neveux hastened on through the wood, 
fell back again into the road, and reached Merida, though he 
lost a few men * by shells from Hawker's battery, which came 
up late in the day. The K.G.L. Hussars had 2 men killed 
and 1 officer and 17 men wounded : the 13th Light Dragoons 
1 killed and 19 wounded. 

Dombrouski, warned of the approach of the allies in force, 
immediately evacuated Merida, where Hill made prize of 
160,000 lb. of wheat, unground, and a large magazine of 
biscuit. He found that the French had been fortifying the 
town, but the works were too unfinished to allow them to 
defend it. On January 1st Hill, continuing his advance, 
marched across the bridge of Merida on Almendralejo, 
thinking that Drouet might possibly have come up to hel 
Dombrouski, and that he might force him to fight. This 
was not to be : the rearguard of the force from Merida was 
discovered drawn up in front of Almendralejo, but gave way 
at the first push : a small magazine of food was capture 
in the town. 

It was now clear that Drouet did not intend to make a stand, 
but would fall back towards the Andalusian frontier, and war 
for aid from Soult. Hill resolved to move his main body n 
further, but sent out a small flying column under Major-Gener 
Abercrombie, with orders to press the French rearguard as Ion 
as it would give way, but to halt and turn back on findin 
serious forces in front of him. This detachment (l/50th regi 
ment, two squadrons 2nd Hussars K.G.L., two squadron 
10th Portuguese, three guns) passing Fuente del Maestre neare 
Los Santos on January 3rd, and found Dombrouski, with 
rearguard of all arms, disposed to fight. This led to a shar 
cavalry combat, between two squadrons of the 26th French 
Dragoons and the allied horse. One squadron of the hussars 
and one of the Portuguese, gallantly led by Colonel Campbell, 
charged the enemy in front, the other squadrons remaining in 
reserve. The dragoons, soon broken, lost 6 killed, many 

the infantry formed in square, and favoured as he was by the nature of thf 
country, of which he knew how to take the fullest advantage, preventer 
the cavalry alone from effecting anything against him.' 
1 Apparently two killed and nine wounded. 


wounded, and 2 officers and 35 men prisoners. Thereupon 
the French infantry moved rapidly off southwards, making no 
attempt to stand. The victors lost 1 man killed and 14 wounded 
from the hussars, 1 officer and 5 men from the Portuguese. 

Drouet was now concentrating at Llerena, and ready to give 
up all Estremadura north of that point. He was sending daily 
appeals for succour to Soult, who had little to give him, while 
Victor and the expeditionary force were away at Tarifa. On 
January 5th the Duke of Dalmatia wrote a dispatch which 
ordered that the siege should be abandoned — but long ere it 
came to hand Victor had been forced to depart, as we have 
seen, for reasons entirely unconnected with Hill's midwinter 
raid. Wellington's plan would have worked if the weather had 
not already driven Victor away, but had in actual fact no effect 
on his proceedings. 

Hill, having accomplished all that could be done in the way 
of alarming Soult, held Merida and Almendralejo for a few 
days, with his advanced cavalry about Fuente del Maestre : but 
retired on January 13th to Albuquerque and Portalegre, to the 
intense relief of his enemy. The raising of the siege of Tarifa 
being known, there was no further reason for keeping Hill in an 
advanced position, which might have tempted Soult to make 
a great concentration and take the offensive. Wellington had 
no desire that he should do so, since the Army of Andalusia, 
while dispersed, was harmless, but might become dangerous if 
it should evacuate great regions, and so be able to collect in 
force. Soult did not wish to make such sacrifices unless he were 
obliged, and on hearing of Hill's retreat countermanded all 
orders for concentration, and contented himself with bringing 
back Drouet to Llerena and Zalamea, and with reopening his 
communication with Badajoz, which had been cut while the 
allies were at Fuente del Maestre. He did not at this time 
reoccupy Merida, partly because the position had been demon- 
strated to be dangerous by Hill's recent raid, partly because its 
main importance was that it covered the road to Truxillo and 
Almaraz and Marmont's army. But Marmont having, for the 
moment, no troops in this direction, owing to the Alicante expe- 
dition, it was useless to try to keep in touch with him. 

Hill's expedition, by driving Drouet for some time from the 


line of the Guadiana, made possible a sudden irruption of the 
Spaniards into La Mancha, where none of their regular troops 
had been since since the battle of Ocana two years before. This 
raid was carried out by Morillo at the head of a brigade of the 
Estremaduran army of Castanos. That general had heard of 
the way in which the upper valley of the Guadiana had been 
denuded of troops, in order that the Army of the Centre might 
assist Suchet in the direction of Cuenca and Requena 1 . Nothing 
was left in La Mancha save a few battalions of King Joseph's 
German Division, and a brigade of Treillard's dragoons, a force 
which could only provide garrisons for a few large towns and 
watch the high-road from Madrid to Andalusia. Morillo was 
directed to slip eastward through the gap made by Hill between 
the Armies of the South and Portugal, to endeavour to cut up 
the French posts, and to collect recruits and contributions in 
the country-side. With luck he might even break the line of 
communication between Soult and Madrid. His force of 
3,000 men was insufficient for anything more than a raid. 

Starting from Montanches near Caceres on December 30th- 
three days after Hill's expedition had begun — Morillo crossed 
the Guadiana, and after making a fruitless dash at Belalcazar, 
the isolated French garrison which protected the northernmost 
corner of Andalusia, marched straight on by Agudo and 
Sarceruela into the heart of La Mancha, where he seized 
Ciudad Real, its capital [January 15]. The small French force 
quartered there fled at his approach, which was wholly unex- 
pected — no Spanish army had ever marched up the valley of 
the Guadiana before. On the next day Morillo attacked 
Almagro, where there was a garrison of 500 men ; but before he 
had made any impression he was surprised by the arrival of 
General Treillard, with a column hastily gathered from the posts 
along the high-road. The Spanish general refused to fight, and, 
abandoning Ciudad Real, withdrew with little loss into the 
passes of the Sierra de Guadalupe, where his enemy declined to 
follow. Since Hill had by this time abandoned Merida and 
returned to Portugal, Morillo felt his position to be uncom- 
fortably isolated, and feared that French troops from Estrema- 
dura or from the Tagus valley might intercept his way home-] 
1 See page 56 above. 


ward. The danger turned out to be imaginary, and on reaching 
Truxillo on January 30 the column was able to rest unmo- 
lested for a fortnight at that important strategical point, and 
then to retire at leisure to Montanches, its original starting- 

Thus ended an extraordinary raid, which, though it had no 
positive results whatever, demonstrated two things clearly 
enough — one was the marching power of the Spanish infantry, 
which between December 28 and January 30 covered 250 
miles of vile mountain roads in bitter weather, and came back 
intact with little loss 1 , the other was the slightness of the 
French hold on La Mancha, where the appearance of a small 
brigade of 3,000 men upset the whole country-side. Morillo was 
only driven off by a concentration of many small garrisons, and, 
when they were withdrawn, the local guerrillero bands overran 
the land. Their chiefs, El Medico [Palarea], Chaleco, and others, 
did an immense amount of damage while the French were 
concentrated, and ravaged up to the very gates of Madrid. 
Chaos reigned in New Castile till Foy's and Sarrut's divisions 
came back from the Alicante expedition, and dispersed them- 
selves along the valley of the Tagus at the beginning of February. 
For, as we have often had occasion to remark before, every 
province of Spain required not only to be conquered but to be 
held down by a permanent garrison. The moment that it was 
left too lightly held, the guerrilleros came down from the hills, 
occupied all the open country, and cut all communications. 

1 Napier (iv. p. 50) overrates the damage that Morillo suffered. He was 
not ' completely defeated ' by Treillard, because he absconded without 
fighting. In his elaborate dispatch he gives his whole loss as two killed 
and nine wounded. See his life by Rodriguez Villa, appendices to vol. ii, 
for an almost daily series of letters describing his march. 



The military operations in the South during the winter of 
1811-12 were inconclusive, and only important in a negative 
way, as showing that the initiative of the French armies was 
spent in this direction. But it must not be forgotten that while 
Soult had been brought to a standstill, Suchet's operations were 
still progressing : January, indeed, saw the last great Spanish 
disaster of the war, the fall of Valencia, so that the spirits of 
government and people still ran very low. It was not till the 
sudden irruption of Wellington into the kingdom of Leon had 
ended in the capture of Ciudad Rodrigo (January 19), that 
there was any great occasion for hopefulness. And for a long 
time after that event its importance was not fully understood. 
That the central turning-point of the war had come, that for the 
future the allies were to be on the offensive, and the French on 
the defensive, was not realized till Badajoz had fallen in April, 
a blow which shook the whole fabric of King Joseph's power 
throughout the regions where he seemed to reign. Nor was it 
only the state of affairs in the Peninsula which, during the 
winter of 1811-12, seemed sufficiently gloomy both for the 
present and for the future. The news from the Spanish colonies 
in America grew steadily worse : in most of the viceroyalties 
of the Western world there was now a nucleus of trouble : 
the name of Ferdinand VII was still used by the insurgents as 
a rallying cry, except in Venezuela, where Miranda had pro- 
claimed an independent republic in July 1811. But in La Plata 
and Chili lip-loyalty to the sovereign was accompanied by 
practical secession from the Spanish state : the Cabildos or 
Juntas paid no attention to orders received from Cadiz. In 
Mexico, though the capital and the greater part of the country 
were still in the hands of the constituted authorities, there was 
a lively insurrection on foot since September 1810, under the 


priest Hidalgo — he was captured and executed in 1812, but his 
death did not crush his faction. The Viceroyalty of Peru was 
almost the only part of Spanish America which still remained 
loyal. The Cortes at Cadiz made elaborate attempts to con- 
ciliate the Americans, but was unable to satisfy their expecta- 
tions or to end their discontents. The deeply-rooted belief 
of the Creoles that they and their country were still being 
exploited for the benefit of Spain, could not be removed by any 
declaration that they were now to be Spanish citizens with 
full rights, or by giving them representation in the Cortes. 
The idea of autonomy was already abroad in Spanish America, 
and in every quarter ambitious men were quoting the precedent 
of the revolt of the Thirteen United Colonies from Great Britain 
in the previous generation. Truly Spain had committed an 
unwise act when she joined France in wrecking the British 
domination in North America. She revenged an old grudge 
successfully, but she taught her own colonists a lesson impos- 
sible to forget and easy to copy. 

The Peninsular War had hitherto been maintained in no small 
degree by the money which kept flowing in from America : 
what would happen if the treasure-ships with their regular 
supply of silver dollars from the mines of Mexico and Peru 
ceased altogether to come in ? Already affairs were looking so 
! threatening that, despite of all the needs of the campaign at 
home, reinforcements were being sent out to the New World 
from Cadiz and from Corunna : the Army of Galicia, as we 
shall presently see, was nearly put out of action in the spring of 
1812 by the dispatch of an over-great proportion of its trained 
artillerymen to America \ Some French observers of the 
situation formed the idea that the Spaniards, if pressed to 
a decision between the possible loss of their colonies and the 
chance of obtaining a free hand by peace with Napoleon, might 
make the choice for empire rather than freedom. By acknow- 
ledging Joseph Bonaparte as king, and coming into the Napo- 
leonic system, they might be able to turn their whole strength 
against the discontented Americans. This idea had one fatal 
error : any Spaniard could see that submission to France 
meant war with Great Britain : and then the way across the 
1 See below, section xxxiii, page 337. 


Atlantic would be closed. The British government would be 
forced into an alliance with the colonists ; it had already 
thought of this device in the old days before Napoleon's invasion 
of the Peninsula. Whitelock's unhappy Buenos Ayres expedi- 
tion in 1807 had been sent out precisely to take advantage of 
the discontent of the Americans, and in the hope that they 
would rise against the mother country if promised assistance. 
The adventurer Miranda had spent much time in pressing 
this policy on the Portland cabinet. Whitelock's descent on 
the Rio de la Plata, it is true, had been as disappointing in the 
political as in the military line : he had got no help whatever 
from the disaffected colonists. But feeling in America had 
developed into much greater bitterness since 1807 : in 1812 
actual insurrection had already broken out. British aid would 
not, this time, be rejected : the malcontents would buy it by 
the grant of liberal trading concessions, which the Cadiz 
government, even in its worst time of trouble, had steadily 
refused to grant. There was every chance, therefore, that 
a policy of submission to Napoleon would ensure the loss of 
America even more certainly and more rapidly than a persistence 
in the present war. It does not seem that any person of impor- 
tance at Cadiz ever took into serious consideration the idea of 
throwing up the struggle for independence, in order to obtain 
the opportunity of dealing with the American question. 

The idea, however, was in the air. This was the time at 
which King Joseph made his last attempt to open up secret 
negotiation with the patriots. His own condition was unhappy 
enough, as has been sufficiently shown in an earlier chapter 
but he was well aware that the outlook of his enemies was no 
less gloomy. One of the numerous — and usually impracticable 
— pieces of advice which his brother had sent him was the 
suggestion that he should assemble some sort of a Cortes, and 
then, posing as a national king, try to open up communica- 
tions with the Cadiz government, setting forth the somewhat 
unconvincing thesis that Great Britain, and not France, was 
the real enemy of Spanish greatness. The idea of calling a; 
Cortes fell through : the individuals whom Joseph could have 
induced to sit in it would have been so few, so insignificant,] 
and so unpopular, that such a body could only have provoked : 


contempt 1 . But an attempt was made to see if anything could 
be done at Cadiz : the inducement which Joseph was authorized 
to offer to the patriots was that immediately on his recognition 
as a constitutional king by the Cortes — and a constitution was 
to be drawn up in haste at Madrid — the French army should 
retire from Spain, and the integrity of the realm should be 
guaranteed. Napoleon even made a half-promise to give up 
Catalonia, though he had practically annexed it to his empire in 
the previous year 2 . 

Joseph and his ministers had no confidence either in the 
Emperor's sincerity in making these offers, or in the likelihood 
of their finding any acceptance among the patriots. He sent, 
however, to Cadiz as his agent a certain Canon La Pena, a secret 
Afrancesado, but a brother of Manuel La Pena, the incapable 
general who had betrayed Graham at Barrosa. This officer was 
on his trial at the moment for his misbehaviour on that occasion, 
and the canon pretended to have come to assist him in his day 
of trouble on grounds of family affection. It would seem that 
he sounded certain persons but with small effect. Toreno, who 
was present in Cadiz at the time, and well acquainted with 
every intrigue that was in progress, says that the Regency never 
heard of the matter, and that very few members of the Cortes 
knew what La Pena was doing. It seems that he had conversa- 
tions with certain freemasons, who were connected with lodges 
in Madrid that were under French influence, and apparently 
with one member of the ministry. ' I do not give his name,' 
says the historian, ' because I have no documentary proof to 
bear out the charge, but moral proof I have 3 .' Be this as it 
may, the labours of La Pena do not seem to have been very 
fruitful, and the assertion made by certain French historians, 
and by Napoleon himself in the Memorial de Ste-Helene, that the 
Cortes would have proceeded to treat with Joseph, but for / 
Wellington's astonishing successes in the spring of 1812, has / 
little or no foundation. As Toreno truly observes, any open=* 

1 For all this scheme see the Memoirs of Miot de Melito, iii. pp. 215-16, 
beside the Emperor's own dispatches. Note especially the instructions which 
the French ambassador, Laforest, was to set before Joseph. 

2 See vol. iv. p. 215. 

3 Toreno, iii. p. 100. 


proposal of the sort would have resulted in the tearing to pieces 
by the populace of the man hardy enough to make it. The 
intrigue had no more success than the earlier mission of Sotelo, 
which has been spoken of in another place \ But it lingered 
on, till the battle of Salamanca in July, and the flight of Joseph 
from Madrid in August, proved, to any doubters that there 
may have been, that the French cause was on the wane 2 . One 
of the most curious results of this secret negotiation was that 
Soult, hearing that the King's emissary was busy at Cadiz, and 
not knowing that it was at Napoleon's own suggestion that the 
experiment was being made, came to the conclusion that Joseph 
was plotting to abandon his brother, and to make a private 
peace with the Cortes, on condition that he should break with 
France and be recognized as king. He wrote, as we shall 
presently see, to denounce him to Napoleon as a traitor. Hence 
came no small friction in the following autumn. 

These secret intrigues fell into a time of keen political strife 
at Cadiz — the famous Constitution, which was to cause so much 
bickering in later years, was being drafted, discussed, and 
passed through the Cortes in sections, all through the autumn 
of 1811 and the winter of 1811-12. The Liberals and the 
Serviles fought bitterly over almost every clause, and during 
their disputes the anti-national propaganda of the handful ol 
Afrancesados passed almost unnoticed. It is impossible in 
purely military history to relate the whole struggle, and a fe 
words as to its political bearings must suffice. 

The Constitution was a strange amalgam of ancient Spanish 
national tradition, of half-understood loans from Great Britain 
and America, and of political theory borrowed from France. 
Many of its framers had obviously studied the details oj 
the abortive ' limited monarchy ' which had been imposed o; 
Louis XVI in the early days of the French Revolution. Froi 
this source came the scheme which limited within narro 1 
bounds the sovereign's power in the Constitution. The system 
evolved was that of a king whose main constitutional weapon 

1 See vol. ii. p. 168. 

2 Toreno says that the mistress of the Duke of Infantado was implicated 
in the negotiation, after he had become a regent, but that he himself had 
no treasonable intentions, being a staunch supporter of Ferdinand. 


was that right of veto on legislation which had proved so 
unpopular in France. He was to choose ministers who, like 
those of the United States of America, were not to sit in parlia- 
ment, nor to be necessarily dependent on a party majority in 
the house, though they were to be responsible to it. There was 
to be but one Chamber, elected not directly by the people — 
though universal suffrage was introduced — but by notables 
chosen by the parishes in local primary assemblies, who 
again named district notables, these last nominating the actual 
members for the Cortes. 

The right of taxation was vested in the Chamber, and the 
Ministry was placed at its mercy by the power of refusing 
supply. The regular army was specially subjected to the 
Chamber and not to the King, though the latter was left some 
power with regard to calling out or disbanding the local militia 
which was to form the second line in the national forces — at 
present it was in fact non-existent, unless the guerrillero bands 
might be considered to represent it. 

The most cruel blows were struck not only at the King's 
power but at his prestige. A clause stating that all treaties or 
grants made by him while in captivity were null and void was 
no doubt necessary — there was no knowing what documents 
Napoleon might not dictate to Ferdinand. But it was unwise 
to formulate in a trenchant epigram that ' the nation is free and 
independent, not the patrimony of any family or person,' or 
that ' the people's obligation of obedience ceases when the 
King violates the laws.' And when, after granting their 
sovereign a veto on legislation, the Constitution proceeded to 
state that the veto became inoperative after the Cortes had 
passed any act in three successive sessions, it became evident 
that the King's sole weapon was to be made ineffective. 
4 Sovereignty,' it was stated, i is vested essentially in the 
nation, and for this reason the nation alone has the right to 
establish its fundamental laws.' But the most extraordinary 
attack on the principle of legitimate monarchy was a high- 
handed resettlement of the succession to the throne, in which 
the regular sequence of next heirs was absolutely ignored. 
If King Ferdinand failed to leave issue, the crown was to go to 
his brother Don Carlos : if that prince also died childless, the 



Constitution declared that the infante Don Francisco and his 
sister the Queen of Etruria were both to be passed over. No 
definite reasons were given in the act of settlement for this 
astonishing departure from the natural line of descent. The 
real meaning of the clause concerning Don Francisco was that 
many suspected him of being the son of Godoy and not of 
Charles IV \ As to the Queen of Etruria, she had been in her 
younger days a docile tool of Napoleon, and had lent herself 
very tamely to his schemes. But it is said that the governing 
cause of her exclusion from the succession was not so much her 
own unpopularity, as the incessant intrigues of her sister 
Carlotta, the wife of the regent Joao of Portugal, who had for 
a long time been engaged in putting forward a claim to be 
elected as sole regent of Spain. She had many members of the 
Cortes in her pay, and their influence was directed to getting 
her name inserted in the list above that of her brother in the 
succession-roll, and to the disinheritance of her sister also. 
Her chance of ever reaching the throne was not a very good one, 
as both Ferdinand and Carlos were still young, and could 
hardly be kept prisoners at Valencay for ever. It is probable 
that the real object of the manoeuvres was rather to place her 
nearer to the regency of Spain in the present crisis, than to seat 
her upon its throne at some remote date. For the regency was 
er desire, though the crown too would have been welcome, 
and sometimes not only the anti-Portuguese party in the Cortes, 
but Wellington and his brother Henry Wellesley, the Ambassa- 
dor at Cadiz, were afraid that by patience and by long intrigue 
her partisans might achieve their object. 

Wellington was strongly of opinion that a royal regent at 
Cadiz would be most undesirable. The personal influences of 
a camarilla, surrounding an ambitious but incapable female 
regent, would add another difficulty to the numerous problems 
of the relations between England and Spain, which were already 
sufficiently tiresome. 

This deliberate humiliation of the monarchy, by clauses 

accentuated by phrases of insult, which angered, and were 

intended to anger, the Serviles, was only accomplished after 

long debate, in which protests of the most vigorous sort were 

1 See Villa Urrutia, i. p. 13 and ii. pp. 355-9. 


made by many partisans of the old theory of Spanish absolutism. 
Some spoke in praise of the Salic Law, violated by the mention of 
Carlotta as heiress to the throne, others (ignoring rumours as to 
his paternity) defended Don Francisco, as having been by his 
youth exempted from the ignominies of Bayonne, and dwelt on 
the injustice of his fate. But the vote went against them by 
a most conclusive figure. 

The majority in the Cortes, which made such parade of its 
political liberalism, did not pursue its theories into the realm 
of religion. After reading its fulsome declarations in favour 
of freedom, it is astounding to note the black intolerance of the 
clause which declares not only, as might naturally be expected, 
that ' the religion of the Spanish nation is, and ever shall be, the 
Catholic Apostolic Roman, the one true faith,' but that ' the 
nation defends it by wise laws, forbidding the exercise of any 
other.' Schism and unorthodoxy still remained political as well 
as ecclesiastical crimes, no less than in the time of Philip II. 
The Liberals, despite of murmurs by the Serviles, refused to 
recreate the Inquisition, but this was as far as their conception 
of religious freedom went. 

Contemplating this exhibition of mediaeval intolerance, it is 
impossible to rate at any very high figure the ostentatious 
liberalism which pervades the greater part of the Constitution. 
We are bound to recognize in it merely the work of a party of 
ambitious politicians, who desired to secure control of the state- 
machine for themselves, and to exclude the monarchy from all 
share in its manipulation. No doubt any form of limited 
government was better than the old royal bureaucracy. But 
this particular scheme went much farther than the needs or the 
possibilities of the time, and was most unsuited for a country 
such as the Spain of 1812. When its meaning began to be 
understood in the provinces, it commanded no enthusiasm or 
respect. Indeed, outside the Cortes itself the only supporters 
that it possessed were the populace of Cadiz and a few other 
great maritime towns. Considered as a working scheme it had 
the gravest faults, especially the ill-arranged relations between 
the ministers (who did not form a real cabinet) and the Chamber, 
in which they were prohibited from sitting. In 1814 Lord 
Castlereagh observed, with great truth, that he could now say 


from certain experience, that in practice as well as in theory 
the Constitution of 1812 was one of the worst among the 
modern productions of its kind . 

Among the many by-products of the Constitution was 
a change in the membership of the Regency. The old 4 trini- 
tarian ' body composed of Blake, Agar, and Cisgar, had long 
been discredited, and proposals for its dissolution had been 
debated, even before its further continuance was rendered 
impossible by Blake's surrender to the French at Valencia in 
the earliest days of 1812. A furious discussion in the Cortes 
had ended in a vote that no royal personage should be a member 
of any new regency, so that the pretensions of the Princess of 
Portugal were finally discomfited. The new board consisted 
of the Duke of Infantado, Joaquim Mosquera, a member of 
the Council of the Indies, Admiral Villavicencio, military 
governor of Cadiz, Ignacio Rodriguez de Rivas, and Henry 
O'Donnell, Conde de la Bispal, the energetic soldier whose 
exploits in Catalonia have been set forth in the last volume of 
this book. He was the only man of mark in the new regency : 
Infantado owed his promotion to his rank and wealth, and the 
fact that he had been the trusted friend of Ferdinand VII. He 
possessed a limited intelligence and little education, and was 
hardly more than a cipher, with a distinct preference for 
4 Serviles ' rather than for Liberals. Villavicencio had no 
military reputation, but had been an energetic organizer, and 
a fairly successful governor during the siege of Cadiz. Mosquera 
and Rivas were elected mainly because they were of American 
birth — their choice was intended to conciliate the discontented 
colonists. Neither of them was entitled by any great personal 
merit to the promotion which was thrust upon him. Henry 
O'Donnell, now at last recovered from the wound which had 
laid him on a sick bed for so many months in 1811 2 , was bot 
capable and energetic, but quarrelsome and provocative : h 
belonged to that class of men who always irritate their colleagu 

1 The best and most recent account of all this, explaining many contr* 
dictions and some insincere suppression of fact in Toreno's great histor 
is to be found in chapter ix of vol. ii of Senor Villa Urrutia's Relatione 
entre Espana y Inglalerra 1808-14. 

* See vol. iv. p. 240. 

1812] THE NEW REGENCY 145 

into opposition, by their rapid decisions and imperious ways, 
especially when those colleagues are men of ability inferior to 
their own. The Duke of Infantado was absent for some time 
after his election — he had been serving as ambassador in 
London. Of the other four Regents two ranked as ' Serviles,' 
two as Liberals, a fact which told against their efficiency as 
a board. They had little strength to stand out against the 
Cortes, whose jealousy against any power in the State save 
its own was intense. On the whole it may be said that the 
substitution of the five new Regents for the three old ones had 
no great political consequences. The destiny of the patriot 
cause was not in the hands of the executive, but of the turbulent, 
faction-ridden, and ambitious legislative chamber, an ideally 

! bad instrument for the conduct of a difficult and dangerous war. 
Fortunately it was neither the Regency nor the Cortes whose 
actions were to settle the fate of the campaign of 1812, but 
purely and solely Wellington and the Anglo-Portuguese army. 

! The intrigues of Cadiz turned out to be a negligible quantity 
in the course of events. 
In Lisbon at this time matters were much more quiet than 

! they had been a little while back. The Portuguese government 

I had abandoned any overt opposition to Wellington, such as 
had been seen in 1810, when the Patriarch and the President 

; Souza had given him so much trouble. The expulsion of Mas- 
sena from Portugal had justified the policy of Wellington, and 

I almost silenced his critics. He had not even found it necessary 
to press for the removal of the men whom he distrusted from 
the Council of Regency \ in which the word of his loyal coad- 

i jutor, Charles Stuart, who combined the rather incompatible 
functions of British Ambassador and Regent, was now supreme. 

| Open opposition had ceased, but Wellington complained that 

• while compliance was always promised, ' every measure which 
I propose is frittered away to nothing, the form and the words 

! remain, but the spirit of the measure is taken away in the 

| execution 2 .' This was, he remarked, the policy of the Portu- 
guese government : they no longer refused him anything ; but 

1 Early in 1812, however, Wellington once more spoke of requiring 
1 Souza's retirement from office. Dispatches, ix. p. 88. 

9 Wellington to Charles Stuart, April 9, 1812. Dispatches, ix. p. 48. 

OMAN, v l 



if they thought that any of his demands might offend either 
the Prince Regent at Rio Janeiro or the popular sentiment of 
the Portuguese nation, they carried out his proposals in such 
a dilatory fashion, and with so many exceptions and excuses, 
that he failed to obtain what he had expected. 

In this there was a good deal of injustice. Wellington does 
not always seem to have realized the abject poverty which four 
years of war had brought upon Portugal. The Regency calcu- 
lated that, on account of falling revenue caused by the late 
French invasion, for 1812 they could only count on 12,000,000 
cruzados novos of receipts 1 — this silver coin was worth about 
2s. 6d. sterling, so that the total amounted to about £1,500,000. 
Of this three-fourths, or 9,000,000 cruzados, was set aside for 
the army, the remainder having to sustain all the other expenses 
of the State — justice, civil administration, roads, navy, &c. The 
British subsidy had been raised to £2,000,000 a year, but it was 
paid with the utmost irregularity : in one month of 1811 the 
Portuguese treasury had received only £6,000, in another only 
£20,000, instead of the £166,000 promised 2 . When such 
arrears accumulated, it was no wonder that the soldiers starved 
and the magazines ran low. It was calculated that to keep 
the army up to its full numbers, and to supply all military needs 
efficiently, 45,000,000 cruzados a year were required. Taking! 
the British subsidy as equalling 16,000,000, and the available J 
national contribution at 9,000,000 cruzados, there was little; 
more than half the required sum available. This Portuguese! 
calculation appears to be borne out by the note of Beresford'si 
chief of the staff, D'Urban, in February 1812. 4 The Marshals 
at Lisbon finds that, after a perfect investigation, it appears! 
that the expenditure must be nearly £6,000,000 — the means at; 
present £3,500,000 ! Nous verronsS 

It is clear that the Portuguese government must have shrunk! 
from many of Wellington's suggestions on account of mere lacl 

1 Napier (iv. p. 212) says that Portugal raised 25,000,000 cruzados t 
year. I cannot understand this, comparing it with Soriano de Luz, iii 
p. 523, which quotes 12,000,000 cruzados as the total receipt of taxes foi 
1811. Does Napier include loans, and the inconvertible paper issued by t 
government ? 

2 See complaints of the Conde de Redondo, the Portuguese finan 
minister, in Soriano de Luz, iii. p. 520. 


of resources. A third of the country had been at one time or 
another overrun by the French — the provinces north of the 
Douro in 1809, the Beira and northern Estremadura in 1810-11. 
It would take long years before they were in a position to make 
their former contributions to the expenses of the State. It was 
impossible to get over this hard fact : but Wellington thought 
that a rearrangement of taxes, and an honest administration 
of their levy, would produce a much larger annual revenue than 
was being raised in 1812. He pointed out, with some plausibility, 
that British money was being poured into Portugal by millions 
and stopped there : some one — the merchant and contractor for 
the most part — must be making enormous profits and accumu- 
lating untold wealth. Moreover he had discovered cases of the 
easy handling of the rich and influential in the matter of 
taxation, while the peasantry were being drained of their last 
farthing. Such little jobs were certain to occur in an adminis- 
tration of the ancien regime : fidalgos and capitalists knew how 
to square matters with officials at Lisbon. ' A reform in the 
abuses of the Customs of Lisbon and Oporto, a more equal and 
just collection of the Income Tax on commercial property, 
particularly in those large and rich towns [it is scandalous to 
hear of the fortunes made by the mercantile classes owing to 
the war, and to reflect that they contribute practically nothing 
to bear its burdens], a reform of the naval establishment and 
the arsenal, would make the income equal to the expenditure, 
and the government would get on without calling upon Great 
Britain at every moment to find that which, in the existing 
state of the world, cannot be procured, viz. money 1 .' So wrote 
Wellington, who was always being irritated by discovering that 
the magazines of Elvas or Almeida were running low, or that 
recruits were not rejoining their battalions because there was no 
cash to arm or clothe them, or that troops in the field were 
getting half-rations, unless they were on the British subsidy list. 
No doubt Wellington was right in saying that there was 
a certain amount of jobbery in the distribution of taxation, and 
that more could have been raised by a better system. But 
Portuguese figures of the time seem to make it clear that even 

1 See tables on pp. 324-5 of HalJiday's Present State of Portugal, pub- 
lished in 1812. 



if a supernatural genius had been administering the revenue 
instead of the Conde de Redondo, all could not have been 
obtained that was demanded. The burden of the war expenses 
was too heavy for an impoverished country, with no more than 
two and a half million inhabitants, which was compelled to 
import a great part of its provisions owing to the stress of war. 
The state of Portugal may be estimated by the fact that in 
the twelve months between February 1811 and January 1812 
£2,672,000 worth of imported corn, besides 605,000 barrels of 
flour, valued at £2,051,780 more, was brought into the country 
and sold there \ On the other hand the export of wine, with 
which Portugal used to pay for its foreign purchases, had fallen 
off terribly : in 1811 only 18,000 pipes were sold as against an 
average of 40,000 for the eight years before the outbreak of the 
Peninsular War. An intelligent observer wrote in 1812 that the 
commercial distress of the country might mainly be traced to 
the fact that nearly all the money which came into the country 
from England, great as was the sum, found its way to the 
countries from which Portugal was drawing food, mainly to the 
United States, from which the largest share of the wheat and 
flour was brought. ' As we have no corresponding trade with 
America, the balance has been very great against this country : 
for the last three years this expenditure has been very consider- 
able, without any return whatever, as the money carried to 
America has been completely withdrawn from circulation.' 

The shrinkage in the amount of the gold and silver current in 
Portugal was as noticeable in these years as the same phenome- 
non in England, and (like the British) the Portuguese govern- 
ment tried to make up the deficiency by the issue of incon- ; 
vertible paper money, which gradually fell in exchange value as I 
compared with the metallic currency. The officers of the army, 
as well as all civil functionaries, were paid their salaries half in 
cash and half in notes — the latter suffered a depreciation of 
from 15 to 30 per cent. Among the cares which weighed on 
Wellington and Charles Stuart was that of endeavouring to | 
keep the Regency from the easy expedient of issuing more and 
more of a paper currency which was already circulating at far 
less than its face value. This was avoided — fortunately for the J 
1 Halliday's Present Slate of Portugal, p. 320. 


Portuguese people and army, no less than for the Anglo- 
Portuguese alliance. 

After all, the practical results of the efforts made by the 
Portuguese government were invaluable. Wellington could 
not have held his ground, much less have undertaken the 
offensive campaign of 1812, without the aid of the trusty 
auxiliaries that swelled his divisions to normal size. Without 
their Portuguese brigades most of them would have been mere 
skeletons of 3,000 or 4,000 men. Beresford's army was almost 
up to its full establishment in January 1812 — there were 
59,122 men on the rolls, when recruits, sick, men on detachment, 
and the regiment lent for the succour of Cadiz are all counted. 
Deducting, beyond these, the garrisons of Elvas, Abrantes, 
Almeida, and smaller places, as also the dismounted cavalry 
left in the rear , there were over 30,000 men for the fighting-line, 
in ten brigades of infantry, six regiments of cavalry, and eight 
field-batteries. Beresford, lately entrusted by orders from 
Rio Janeiro with still more stringent powers over the military 
establishment, was using them to the full. An iron hand kept 
down desertion and marauding, executions for each of those 
offences appear incessantly in the Ordens do Dia, which give the 
daily chronicle of the Portuguese head-quarters. In addition 
to the regular army it must be remembered that he had to 
manage the militia, of which as many as 52,000 men were under 
arms at one time or another in 1812. Counting the first and 
the second line together, there were 110,000 men enrolled — a fine 
total for a people of two and a half million souls. 

Putting purely Portuguese difficulties aside, Wellington was 
much worried at this time by a trouble which concerned the 
British and not the local finances. This was the delay in the 
cashing of the ' vales ' or bills for payment issued by the Com- 
missary-General for food and forage bought from the peasantry. 
As long as they were settled at short intervals, no difficulty 
arose about them — they were indeed treated as negotiable 
paper, and had passed from hand to hand at a lesser discount 

1 The deductions were — sick, 7,500 ; untrained recruits, 4,000 ; dis- 
mounted cavalry, 3,000 ; regiment at Cadiz, 1,500 ; garrisons (infantry 
and artillery) and men on detachment, 10,000 ; leaving some 33,000 for the 
field. By May the gross total had gone down to 56,674. 


than the inconvertible Portuguese government papers. But all 
through the year 1811 the interval between the issue of the 
1 vale ' and its payment in cash at Lisbon had been growing 
longer, and an uncomfortable feeling was beginning to spread 
about the country-side. The peasantry were growing suspicious, 
and were commencing to sell the bills, for much less than their 
face value, to speculators who could afford to wait for payment. 
To recoup themselves for their loss they were showing signs of 
raising prices all round. Fortunately they were a simple race, 
and communication between districts was slow and uncertain, 
so that no general tendency of this sort was yet prevalent, 
though the symptoms were making themselves visible here 
and there. Hence came Wellington's constant applications for 
more cash from England at shorter notice. Late in the spring 
he devised a scheme by which interest at 5 per cent, was to 
be paid by the Commissary-General on bonds or certificates 
representing money or money's worth advanced to the British 
army, till the principal was repaid — two years being named as 
the period after which the whole sum must be refunded. This 
was a desperate measure, an endeavour to throw forward 
payment on to a remote future, i when it is not probable that 
there will be the same difficulty in procuring specie in England 
to send abroad as there is at the present moment.' The plan I 
was never tried, and was not good : for how could small 
creditors of the English army be expected to stand out of their 
money — representing the price of their crops or their cattle — ■ 
for so long a period as two years, even if they were, in the 
meantime, receiving interest on what was really their working 
capital ? Wellington himself remarked, when broaching the 
scheme to Lord Liverpool, that there remained the difficulty 
that no one could look forward, and say that the British army 
would still be in the Peninsula two years hence. If it had 
left Portugal — whether victorious and pushing towards the 
Pyrenees, or defeated and driven back on to Great Britain — how 
would the creditors communicate with the Commissary-General, 
their debtor ? They could only be referred to London, to which 
they would have no ready access : indeed many of them would 

1 Set forth in detail, and with a sample bond for 1,000 dollars added, in 
Dispatches, ix. pp. 104-5. 


not know where, or what, London was. That such an idea 
should have been set forward only shows the desperate financial 
situation of the British army. 

Wc shall have to be referring to this problem at several later 
points of the history of the campaign of 1812 1 : at the opening 
of the invasion of Leon in June it reached its worst point, just 
before the great victory of Salamanca. But it was always, 
present, and when Wellington's mind was not occupied with 
deductions as to the manoeuvres of French marshals, it may 
undoubtedly be said that his main preoccupation was the 
normally depleted state of the military chest, into which 
dollars and guineas flowed, it is true, in enormous quantities, 
but only to be paid out at once, in settling arrears many months 
old. These were never fully liquidated, and began to accumu- 
late again, with distressing rapidity, after every tardy settlement. 

Whig historians have often tried to represent Wellington's 
financial difficulties as the fault of the home government, and 
it is easy to pick passages from his dispatches in which he 
seems to assert that he is not being supported according to his 
necessities. But a nearer investigation of the facts will not 
bear out this easy theory, the product of party spite. The 
Whigs of 1811-12 were occupied in decrying the Peninsular 
War as a failure, in minimizing the successes of Wellington, and 
in complaining that the vast sums of money lavished on his 
army were wasted. Napoleon was invincible, peace was the 
only way out of disaster, even if the peace must be somewhat 
humiliating. It was unseemly for their representatives, twenty 
years after, to taunt the Perceval and Liverpool ministries with 
having stinted Wellington in his hour of need. We have learnt 
to estimate at their proper value tirades against ' the adminis- 
tration which was characterized by all the corruption and 
tyranny of Mr. Pitt's system, without his redeeming genius.' 
We no longer think that the Napoleonic War was waged ' to 
repress the democratic principle,' nor that the cabinets which 
maintained it were ' the rapacious usurpers of the people's 
rights V 

1 See especially below in chapter iii of section xxxiii. p. 349. 
For these phrases and much more abuse, see Napier, iv. p. 199, a most 
venomous and unjust passage. 


Rather, in the spirit of Mr. Fortescue's admirable volume on 
British Statesmen of the Great War, shall we be prone to stand 
amazed at the courage and resolution of the group of British 
ministers who stood out, for long years and against tremendous 
odds, to defeat the tyrant of Europe and to preserve the British 
Empire. ' On the one side was Napoleon, an autocrat vested 
with such powers as great genius and good fortune have rarely 
placed in the hands of one man, with the resources of half 
Europe at his disposition, and an armed force unsurpassed in 
strength and devotion ready to march to the ends of the world 
to uphold his will. On the other were these plain English 
gentlemen, with not so much as a force of police at their back, 
with a population by nature five times as turbulent as it is now, 
and in the manufacturing districts inflamed alike by revolu- 
tionary teaching and by real distress, with an Ireland always 
perilously near revolt, with a House of Commons unreformed 
indeed, but not on that account containing a less factious, 
mischievous, and obstructive opposition than any other House 
of Commons during a great war. In face of all these difficulties 
they had to raise armies, maintain fleets, construct and pursue 
a military policy, and be unsuccessful at their peril. Napoleon 
might lose whole armies with impunity : five thousand British 
soldiers beaten and captured would have brought any Britis' 
minister's head perilously near the block. Such were th< 
difficulties that confronted Perceval, Liverpool, and Castle 
reagh : yet for their country's sake they encountered them 
without flinching V 

The winter of 1811-12 was not quite the darkest hour : thi 
Russian war was looming in the near future, and Napoleon 
was already beginning to withdraw troops from Spain in 
preparation for it. No longer therefore, as in 1810 and the 
earlier half of 1811, was there a high probability that the main 
bulk of the French armies, under the Emperor himself, might 
be turned once more against the Peninsula. It was all but 
certain that England would soon have allies, and not stand 
practically alone in the struggle, as she had done ever since 
Wagram. Nevertheless, even with the political horizon some- 
what brightened in the East, the time was a sufficiently anxious 
1 Fortescue's British Statesmen, pp. 277-8. 


one. In Great Britain, as in the rest of Europe, the harvest of 
1811 had been exceptionally bad, and the high price of bread, 
coinciding with much unemployment, was causing not only dis- 
tress but wide-spread turbulence in the manufacturing districts. 
This was the year of the first outbreak of the ' Luddites,' and 
of their senseless exploits in the way of machine-smashing. 
The worst stringency of domestic troubles coincided with the 
gradual disappearance of the external danger from the ambition 
of Napoleon. 

In addition it must be remembered that the Perceval cabinet, 
on which all the responsibilities fell, was by no means firmly 
established in power. When it first took office many politicians 
believed that it could not last for a single year. All through 
1811 the Prince Regent had been in secret negotiation with the 
Whigs, and would gladly have replaced his ministers with some 
sort of a coalition government. And in January 1812 Lord 
Wellesley, by far the most distinguished man in the cabinet, 
resigned his post as Foreign Minister. He asserted that he did 
so because his colleagues had failed to accept all his plans for the 
support of his brother and the Peninsular army : and no 
doubt this was to a certain extent true. Yet it cannot be said 
that, either before or after his resignation, the Ministry had 
neglected Wellington ; in 1811 they had doubled his force of 
cavalry, and sent him about a dozen new battalions of infantry. 
It was these reinforcements which made the victories of 1812 
possible, and in that year the stream of reinforcements did not 
cease — nine more infantry regiments came out, mostly in time 
for the great crisis in June 1 . In the autumn the dispatch of 
further succours had become difficult, because of the outbreak 
of the American war, which diverted of necessity to Canada 
many units that might otherwise have gone to Spain. It is 
impossible to maintain that Wellington was stinted of men : 
money was the difficulty. And even as regards money — which 
had to be gold or silver, since paper was useless in the Peninsula — 
the resources placed at his disposal were much larger than in 
previous years, though not so large as he demanded, nor as the 
growing scale of the war required. 

It is difficult to acquit Wellesley of factiousness with regard 
1 Per contra five depleted second battalions went home. 


to his resignation, and the most damaging document against 
him is the apologia drawn up by his devoted adherent Shawe \ 
in the belief that it afforded a complete justification for his 
conduct : many of the words and phrases are the Marquess's 
own. From this paper no one can fail to deduce that it was not 
so much a quixotic devotion to his brother's interests, as an 
immoderate conception of his own dignity and importance 
that made Wellesley resign. He could not stand the free 
discussion and criticism of plans and policies which is essential 
in a cabinet. ' Lord Wellesley has always complained, with 
some justice, that his suggestions were received as those of 
a mere novice. . . . His opinions were overruled, and the oppo- 
sition he met with could only proceed from jealousy, or from 
a real contempt for his judgement. It seemed to him that they 
were unwilling to adopt any plan of his, lest it might lead to his 
assuming a general ascendancy in the Cabinet. . . . He said that 
he took another view of the situation : the Government derived 
the most essential support from his joining it, because it was 
considered as a pledge that the war would be properly sup- 
ported. ..." The war is popular, and any government that will 
support Lord Wellington properly will stand. I do not think 
the war is properly supported, and I cannot, as an honest man, 
deceive the nation by remaining in office." ... It is needless to 
particularize all the points of difference between Lord Wellesley 
and his colleagues : Spain was the main point, but he also 
disapproved of their obstinate adherence to the Orders in] 
Council, and their policy towards America and in Sicily ' — not 
to speak of Catholic Emancipation. 

These are the words of injured pride, not of patriotism. I 
The essential thing at the moment was that the war in Spain 
should be kept up efficiently. By resigning, Wellesley intended 
to break up the Ministry, and of this a probable result might! 
have been the return to office of the Whigs, whose policy was ! 
to abandon the Peninsula and make peace with Napoleon.: 
Wellesley's apologia acknowledges that his influence in thei 
Cabinet had brought about, on more occasions than one, an! 
increase of the support given to his brother, e.g. his colleagues • 
had given in about additions to the Portuguese subsidy, and 

1 Printed in Wellington's Supplementary Dispatches, vii. pp. 257-88. 


| about extra reinforcements to the army. This being so, it was 
1 surely criminal in him to retire, when he found that some of his 
further suggestions were not followed. Would the wrecking of 
i the Perceval cabinet, and the succession of the Whigs to power, 
J have served Wellington or the general cause of the British 
i Empire ? 

Wellington himself saw the situation with clear eyes, and in 

, a letter, in which a touch of his sardonic humour can be detected, 

' wrote in reply to his brother's announcement of his resignation 

that ' In truth the republic of a cabinet is but little suited to 

any man of taste or of large views V There lay the difficulty : 

I the great viceroy loved to dictate, and hated to hear his opinions 

, criticized. Lord Liverpool, in announcing the rupture to 

Wellington in a letter of a rather apologetic cast, explains the 

situation in a very few words : ' Lord Wellesley says generally 

that he has not the weight in the Government which he expected, 

when he accepted office. . . . The Government, though a cabinet, 

is necessarily inter pares, in which every member must expect 

to have his opinions and his dispatches canvassed, and this 

previous friendly canvass of opinions and measures appears 

i necessary, under a constitution where all public acts of ministers 

: will be hostilely debated in parliament.' The Marquess resented 

| all criticism whatever. 

The ministers assured Wellington that his brother's resigna- 
tion would make no difference in their relations with himself, 
and invited him to write as freely to Lord Castlereagh, who 
succeeded Wellesley at the Foreign Office, as to his predecessor. 
! The assurance of the Cabinet's good will and continued confi- 
| dence was received — as it had been given — in all sincerity. Not 
i the least change in Wellington's relations with the Ministry can 
be detected from his dispatches. Nor can it be said that the 
support which he received from home varied in the least, after 
his brother's secession from the Cabinet. Even the grudging 
Napier is forced to concede this much, though he endeavours 
to deprive the Perceval ministry of any credit, by asserting 
that their only chance of continuance in office depended on the 
continued prosperity of Wellington. Granting this, we must 

Wellington to Wellesley, camp before Badajoz, Supplementary Dis- 
patches, vii. p. 307. 


still conclude that Wellesley's resignation, even if it produced 
no disastrous results — as it well might have done — was yet arj 
unhappy exhibition of pride and petulance. A patriotic states] 
man should have subordinated his own amour propre to thq 
welfare of Great Britain, which demanded that a strong 
administration, pledged to the continuance of war with Napoleon, 
should direct the helm of the State. He did his best to wrecM 
Perceval's cabinet, and to put the Whigs in power. 

The crisis in the Ministry passed off with less friction and lest 
results than most London observers had expected, and Lore 
Liverpool turned out to be right when he asserted that in hi* 
opinion * it would be of no material prejudice to the Perce vai 
government. Castlereagh, despite of his halting speech and 
his involved phrases, was a tower of strength at the Foreigrl 
Office, and certainly replaced Wellesley with no disadvantage 
to the general policy of Great Britain. 

Here the jealousies and bickerings in London may be lefli 
for a space. We shall only need to turn back for a moment tcj 
ministerial matters when, at midsummer, the whole situation 
had been transformed, for France and Russia were at lasl 
openly engaged in war, a great relief to British statesmen] 

although at the same time a new trouble was arising in th 

West to distract their attention. For the same month thai 
started Napoleon on his way to Moscow saw President Madison Y 
declaration of war on Great Britain, and raised problems, both 
on the high seas and on the frontiers of Canada, that would have 
seemed heart-breaking and insoluble if the strength of France 
had not been engaged elsewhere. But the ' stab in the back, 
as angry British politicians called it, was delivered too late to be 

1 Liverpool to Wellington, Supplementary Dispatches, vii. p. 257. 




It is with no small relief that we turn away from the annals 
of the petty warfare in the provinces and of the bickerings of 
politicians, to follow the doings of Wellington. All the 
' alarms and excursions ' that we have been narrating were 
of small import, compared with the operations on the frontiers 
of Portugal and Leon which began at the New Year of 1812. 
I Here we have arrived at the true backbone of the war, the 
central fact which governed all the rest. Here we follow the 
working out of a definite plan conceived by a master-mind, and 
are no longer dealing with spasmodic movements dictated by 
!the necessities of the moment. For the initiative had at last 
fallen into Wellington's hands, and the schemes of Soult and 
Marmont were no longer to determine his movements. On the 
contrary, it was he who was to dictate theirs. 

The governing factor in the situation in the end of December 
1811 was, as we have already shown, the fact that Marmont's 
; army had been so distracted by the Alicante expedition, under- 
taken by Napoleon's special orders, that it was no longer in 
a position to concentrate, in full force and within a reasonably 
short period of time. It was on December 13th 1 that the 
Duke of Ragusa received the definitive orders, written on 
November 20-1, that bade him to send towards Valencia, for 
Suchet's benefit, such a force as, when joined by a detachment 
from the Army of the Centre, should make up 12,000 men, and 
to find 3,000 or 4,000 more to cover the line of communications 
of the expedition. Accordingly orders were issued to Montbrun 
I to take up the enterprise, with the divisions of Foy and Sarrut, 
For this date see Marmont to Berthier, from Valladolid, Feb. 6, 1812. 


and his own cavalry ; the concentration of the corps began on 
December 15th, and on December 29th it marched eastward 
from La Mancha * on its fruitless raid. 

Wellington's policy at this moment depended on the exactl 
distribution of the hostile armies in front of him. He lay withi 
the bulk of his army wintering in cantonments along the 
frontier of Portugal and Leon, but with the Light Divisioni 
pushed close up to Ciudad Rodrigo, and ready to invest it, the! 
moment that the news should arrive that the French had so; 
moved their forces as to make it possible for him to close in 
upon that fortress, without the danger of a very large armyi 
appearing to relieve it within a few days. On December 28th| 
he summed up his scheme in a report to Lord Liverpool, in] 
which he stated that, after the El Bodon-Aldea da Pontei 
fighting in September, he had 4 determined to persevere in the 
same system till the enemy should make some alteration in the ; 
disposition of his forces V In the meanwhile he judged that 
he was keeping Marmont and Dorsenne i contained,' and pre-j 
venting them from undertaking operations elsewhere, unless 
they were prepared to risk the chance of losing Rodrigo. ' It 
would not answer to remove the army to the frontiers of 
Estremadura (where a chance of effecting some important! 
object might have offered), as in that case General Abadia [andi 
the Spanish Army of Galicia] would have been left to himself; 
and would have fallen an easy sacrifice to the Army of the. 
North 3 .' Therefore Wellington refused to take the opportunity! 
of descending upon Badajoz and driving Drouet out of Estrema-| 
dura, though these operations were perfectly possible. He! 
confined himself to ordering Hill to carry out the two raids 1 
in this direction, of which the first led to the destruction ofj 
Girard at Arroyo dos Molinos in October, and the second toj 
the occupation of Merida and the expulsion of the French! 
from central Estremadura at midwinter [December 27, 1811- 
January 13, 1812]. 

In October Wellington had hoped for some time that Rodrigo 
would be gravely incommoded for lack of provisions, for it was| 

1 For details, see chapter iii of section xxx above. 

2 Dispatches, viii. p. 516. 

3 Wellington to Lord Liverpool, Dec. 28. 


almost cut off from the army to which it belonged by the 
gucrrillcro bands of Julian Sanchez, who dominated all the 
country between the Agueda and Salamanca, while the Light 
Division lay on the heights close above it, ready to pounce on 
any convoy that might try to pass in. This expectation, how- 
ever, had been disappointed, as a large amount of food had 
been thrown into the place on November 2nd by General 
Thiebault, the governor of Salamanca. This revictualling had 
only been accomplished by a mixture of good management and 
good luck. The governor saw that any convoy must have 
a large escort, because of the guerrilleros, who would have cut 
off a small one. But a large escort could not move very fast, 
or escape notice. Wherefore, taking no mean risk, Thiebault 
collected 3,400 men for a guard, stopped all exit of Spaniards 
from Salamanca two days before the convoy started, gave out 
; a false destination for his movement, and sent out requisitions 
! for rations for 12,000 men in the villages between the starting- 
l place and Rodrigo. Wellington had been on the look-out for 
! some such attempt, and had intended that the Light Division, 
from its lair at Martiago in the mountain-valleys above the city, 
should descend upon any force of moderate size that might 
approach. But receiving, rather late, the false news that at 
least three whole divisions were to serve as escort, he forbade 
\ Craufurd to risk anything till he should have received reinforce- 
I ments. The same day the Agueda became unfordable owing 
i to sudden rains, and no troops could be sent across to join 
Craufurd. Wherefore Thiebault got by, ere the smallness of 
his force was realized, and retreated with such haste, after 
throwing in the food, that the Light Division could not come 
up with him \ Such luck could not be expected another 
time ! 

Wellington had begun to hurry up the nearest divisions to 
support Craufurd, and had supposed for two days that he 
would have serious fighting, since he imagined that 15,000 or 
18,000 men at least had been brought up to guard the convoy. 
It was a grave disappointment to him to find that he had been 
misled, for it was clear that Rodrigo would not be straitened 

1 For details of this operation see Thiebault' s Mtmoires, iv. pp. 538-43, 
corroborated by Wellington's Dispatches, viii. pp. 373-5 and 385-6. 


for food for many a day. He had now to fall back on his 
original scheme of reducing the place by a regular siege, when 
the propitious instant should come round. 

Meanwhile, waiting for the moment when Marmont and 
Dorsenne should disperse their troops into a less concentrated 
position, he took preliminary measures to face that eventuality 
when it should occur. The main thing was to get the battering- 
train, with which Ciudad Rodrigo would have to be attacked, 
close up to its objective. As we have already seen \ it had 
been collected far to the rear, at the obscure village of Villa da 
Ponte near Trancoso. Between that spot and Rodrigo there 
were eighty miles of bad mountain roads : if Wellington had 
waited till he heard that Marmont had moved, before he began j 
to bring up his heavy guns, he would have lost many days. 
Accordingly he commenced to push them forward as early as 
November 12th : their temporary shelter was to be in the j 
fortress of Almeida, which was already so far restored that it 
could be regarded as safe against anything short of a regular! 
siege. It was certain that Marmont would not come forward! 
at midwinter for any such operation, and against raids or] 
demonstrations the place was already secure. On December 4th I 
Wellington reported 2 to Lord Liverpool that it would be com- 
pletely c re-established as a military post ' within a few weeks 
and on the 19th he announced that it was now ' a place of) 
security,' and could be trusted to resist any attack whatever. 
But, long before even the first of these dates, it was beginning! 
to receive the siege-material which Alexander Dickson wj 
ordered to bring up from the rear. As early as November 22nd 
the first division of heavy guns entered its gates : it was given i 
out — to deceive French spies — that the pieces were only; 
intended to arm the walls, and at the same time Dickson was, 
actively employed in mounting on them a number of guns of 
heavy calibre, wrecked in the explosion whenBrennier evacuated 
Almeida in May 1811. Twenty-five of them were in position) 
before Christmas Day. The indefatigable artillery commandant 
had also hunted out of the ruins no less than 8,000 round shot 

1 See vol. iv. p. 549. 

2 Dispatches, viii, Report of Dec. 28 to Lord Liverpool on the late* 


it was originally intended that they should go into the magazines 
of the garrison ; but, when the time for action came, Wellington 
sent the greater part of this stock of second-hand shot to the 
front, because they were immediately available, and ordered 
the Almeida stores to be replenished, as occasion served, by the 
later convoys that arrived from Villa da Ponte. 

Nor was it in bringing forward guns and ammunition alone 
that Wellington was busy during December : he caused a 
great quantity of gabions and fascines to be constructed by 
the men of the four divisions nearest the front, giving two 
vintems (2jd.) for every fascine and four for every gabion. He 
had a very strong trestle-bridge cast across the Agueda at 
Marialva, seven miles north of Rodrigo and out of the reach of its 
garrison, and he began to collect carts from every direction. 
Not only were they requisitioned in Beira, but Carlos de Espana, 
who was lying in a somewhat venturesome position within 
the frontiers of Leon, ordered the Spanish peasantry, even 
as far as Tamames, to send every available ox-wain west- 
ward — and many came, though their owners were risking dire 
chastisement at the hands of the governor of the province of 

Marmont, as we have seen, began to move troops eastward for 
Montbrun's Valencian expedition about December 15th. The 
first news of this displacement reached Wellington on the 24th, 
when he heard that Brennier's division had evacuated Plasencia 
and fallen back behind the Tietar, taking with it all its baggage, 
sick, and stores. This might be no more than a change of can- 
tonments for a single division, or it might be a part of a general 
strategical move. Wellington wrote to Hill that evening, ' some 
say they are going to Valencia, some that they are to cross the 
Tagus. I will let you know if I should learn anything positive. 
I have not yet heard whether the movement has been general, 
or is confined to this particular division V The right deduction 
was not drawn with certainty, because at the same time false 
intelligence was brought that Foy had started from Toledo and 
gone into La Mancha, but had returned again. This was a con- 
fused account of his movement ; but the rumour of his coming 

Wellington to Hill, Dispatches, viii. p. 482, compare Wellington to 
Liverpool, viii. pp. 485-6, of the next morning. 
OMAN, v M 


back discounted the certain news about Brennier's eastward | 
move \ 

On the 29th came the very important additional information 
that on the 26th Clausel's Division, hitherto lying on the Upper ! 
Tormes, above Salamanca, had marched upon Avila, and that j 
the division already at Avila was moving on some unknown j 
eastward destination. At the same time Wellington received 
the perfectly correct information that all the cavalry of the 
Imperial Guard in Old Castile had already started for Bayonne, ! 
and that the two infantry divisions of the Young Guard, which \ 
formed the most effective part of Dorsenne's Army of the North, | 
were under orders to march northward from Valladolid, andj 
had already begun to move. 2 This was certain — less so a report) 
sent in by Castanos to the effect that he had learnt that the J 
whole Army of Portugal was about to concentrate at Toledo.) 
On this Wellington writes to Graham that ' he imagines itj 
is only a report from Alcaldes ' — a class of correspondents; 
on whose accuracy and perspicacity he was not accustomed to 
rely over-much 3 . 

But enough information had come to hand to make it clearj 
that a general eastward movement of the French was taking 
place, and that the troops immediately available for thej 
succour of Ciudad Rodrigo were both decreased in numbers and 
removed farther from the sphere of Wellington's future opera-) 
tions. He thought that the opportunity given justified hin 
in striking at once, and had drawn at last the correct deduction | 
4 I conclude that all these movements have for their object tc 
support Suchet's operations in Valencia, or even to co-operatt! 
with him 4 .' If Marmont were extending his troops so far eas J 
as the Valencian border, and if Dorsenne were withdrawing 
divisions northward from Valladolid, it was clear that they 
could not concentrate in any short space of time for th<! 
deliverance of Rodrigo. It was possible that the siege migh 
linger on long enough to enable the Armies of Portugal and th 

1 See Dispatches, viii. p. 520. See the Dickson MSS., edited by Majcj 
Leslie, for letter from Almeida in December. 

2 Wellington to Lord Liverpool, Jan. 1, Dispatches, viii. p. 524. 

3 See Wellington to Graham, Dec. 26, Dispatches, viii. p. 521. 
* Wellington to Lord Liverpool, Dispatches, viii. p. 524. 


North to unite ; Wellington calculated that it might take as 
much as twenty-four or even thirty days — an estimate which 
happily turned out to be exaggerated : in the end he stormed 
it only twelve days after investment. But even if Rodrigo 
should resist its besiegers sufficiently long to permit of a general 
concentration of the enemy, that concentration would disarrange 
all their schemes, and weaken their hold on many outlying 
parts of the Peninsula. 4 If I do not succeed,' wrote Wellington, 
4 1 shall at least bring back some of the troops of the Army of 
the North, and the Army of Portugal, and shall so far relieve 
the Guerrillas [Mina, Longa, Porlier] and the Spanish Army 
in Valencia V The last-named force was, as a matter of fact, 
beyond saving, when Wellington wrote his letter to Lord 
Liverpool. But he could not know it, and if Blake had behaved 
with common prudence and foresight in the end of December, 
his game ought not to have been played out to a disastrous end 
early in January, just when the British were moving out to 
the leaguer of Rodrigo. 

All the divisions cantoned upon or behind the Beira frontier 

received, on January 2nd-3rd, the orders which bade them 

prepare to push up to the line of the Agueda. Only the 6th 

; Division, which lay farthest off, as far back as Mangualde 

and Penaverde near the Upper Mondego, was not brought up 

: to the front within the next few days. The 1st Division had 

| a long march from Guarda, Celorico, and Penamacor, the 4th 

i and 5th Divisions very short ones from Aldea del Obispo and 

Alameda, Villa de Ciervo, and other villages near Almeida. 

The 3rd Division from Aldea da Ponte and Navas Frias had 

a journey greater than those of the two last-named units, but 

much less than that of the 1st Division. Finally the Light 

I Division was, it may be said, already in position : its outlying 

pickets at Pastores and Zamorra were already within six miles 

of Rodrigo, and its head-quarters at Martiago only a short 

distance farther back. 

By January 5th the divisions were all at the front, though 
their march had been carried out in very inclement weather — 
heavy snow fell on the night of the lst-2nd of the month, and 

Another extract from the explanatory dispatch to Lord Liverpool, 
I written on Jan. 1st, 1812. 

M 2 


continued to fall on the third ; while on the 4th the wind 
shifted, the snow turned to sleet, and the roads grew soft and 
slushy. The carts with stores and ammunition, pushing forward 
from Almeida, only reached Gallegos — ten miles away — in two 
days. The troops were well forward — the 1st Division at 
Espeja and Gallegos, the 3rd at Martiago and Zamorra, the 
4th at San Felices, beyond the Agueda, the Light Division at 
Pastores, La Encina and El Bodon. But Wellington neverthe- 
less had to put off the investment for three days, because the 
train was not to the front. On the 6th he crossed the Agueda 
with his staff and made a close reconnaissance of the place, 
unmolested by the garrison. But it was only on the 8th that 
the divisions, who were suffering severely from exposure to the 
wintry weather, received orders to close in and complete the 

Of the topography of Ciudad Rodrigo we have already spoken 
at some length, when dealing with its siege by Ney in 1810. The 
French occupation had made no essential change to its character. 
The only additions to its works made during the last eighteen 
months were the erection of a small fort on the summit of the 
Greater Teson, and the reinforcing by masonry of the three 
large convents in the suburb of San Francisco, which the 
Spaniards had already used as places of strength. The first- 
named work was a redoubt (named Redout Renaud, from the 
governor whom Julian Sanchez had kidnapped in October) : it 
mounted three guns, had a ditch and palisades, and was built 
for a garrison of seventy men. Its gorge contained a sally-port 
opening towards the town, and was closed with palisades only. 
Four guns on the stone roof of the fortified convent of Sanl 
Francisco, and many more in the northern front of the enceinte,] 
bore upon it, and were intended to make access to it dangerous: 
and costly. 

The breaches made during Ney's siege, in the walls facing the 
Tesons, had been well built up : but the new masonry, clearly 
distinguishable by its fresh colour from the older stone, had 
not set over well, and proved less hard when battered. 

The garrison, supplied by the Army of the North, was not soj 
numerous as it should have been, particularly when it was| 
intended to hold not only the enceinte of the small circular town; 


but the straggling suburb outside. It consisted of a battalion 
each of the 34th Leger and the 113th Line, from the division of 
Thiebault (that long commanded in 1810-11 by Scrras), making 
about 1,600 men, with two companies of Artillery and a small 
detachment of sappers — the whole at the commencement of 
the siege did not amount to quite 2,000 of all ranks, even 
including the sick in the hospital. The governor was General 
Barrie, an officer who had been thrust into the post much 
contrary to his will, because he was the only general of brigade 
available at Salamanca when his predecessor Renaud was 
taken by Julian Sanchez 1 . The strength of the garrison had 
been deliberately kept low by Dorsenne, because of the immense 
difficulty of supplying it with provisions. The first convoy for 
its support had only been introduced by bringing up 60,000 men, 
at the time of the fighting about El Bodon in September : the 
second only by Thiebault's risky expedient on November 2nd. 

The one thing that was abundant in the garrison of Ciudad 
Rodrigo on January 8th, 1812, was artillery. Inside the place 
was lying the whole siege-train of the Army of Portugal, which 
Massena had stored there when he started on his march into 
Portugal in September 1811. No less than 153 heavy guns, with 
the corresponding stores and ammunition, were parked there. 
A small fortress was never so 'stocked with munitions of war, 
and the besieged made a lavish and unsparing use of them 
during the defence : but though the shot and shell were available 
in unlimited quantities, the gunners were not — a fortunate thing 
for the besiegers. 

The details of the siege of Ciudad Rodrigo are interesting. 
This was the only one of Wellington's sieges in which everything 
went without a serious hitch from first to last — so much so that 
he took the place in twelve days, when he had not dared to 
make his calculation for less than twenty-four 2 . Even the 
! thing which seemed at first his greatest hindrance — the extreme 

1 For details of this see Thiebault's Memoires, iv. p. 537, where Barrie's 
i frank dismay at his appointment, and the arguments used to overcome it, 
are described at length. 

Wellington to Liverpool, Dispatches, viii. p. 536, Jan. 7th, 1812, ' I can 
I scarcely venture to calculate the time that this operation will take, but 
I should think not less than twenty-four or twenty-five days. 


inclemency of the weather — turned out in the end profitable. 
The sleet had stopped on the 6th, and a time of light frosts set 
in, without any rain or snow. This kept the ground hard, but 
was not bitter enough to freeze it for even half an inch below 
the surface ; the earth Avas not difficult to excavate, and it 
piled together well. A persistent north-east wind kept the 
trenches fairly dry, though it chilled the men who were not 
engaged in actual spade work to the very bones. The worst 
memory recorded in the diaries of many of the officers present 
in the siege is the constant necessity for fording the Agueda 
in this cold time, when its banks were fringed each morning 
with thin ice. For the camps of all the divisions, except the 3rd, 
which lay at Serradilla del Arroyo, some miles south-east of the 
city, were on the left bank of the river, and the only bridge was 
so far off to the north that it was little used, the short cut across 
the ford to the south of the town saving hours of time : ' and 
as we were obliged to cross the river with water up to our 
middles, every man carried a pair of iced breeches into the 
trenches with him V There being very few villages in the 
immediate neighbourhood of Rodrigo, many of the brigades had 
to bivouac on the open ground — life being only made tolerable 
by the keeping up of immense fires, round which the men spent 
their time when off duty, and slept at night. But for the troops 
in the trenches there could be no such comfort : they shivered 
in their great coats and blankets, and envied those of their com- 
rades who did the digging, which at any rate kept the blood cir- 
culating. It is said that several Portuguese sentries were found 
dead at their posts from cold and exhaustion each morning. 

Wellington's general plan was to follow the same line which 
Ney had adopted in 1810, i.e. to seize the Greater Teson hill, 
establish a first parallel there, and then sap down to the lower 
Little Teson, on which the front parallel and the breaching 
batteries were to be established, at a distance of no more than i 
200 yards from the northern enceinte of the city. But he had 
to commence with an operation which Ney was spared — there 
was now on the crest of the Greater Teson the new Redout 
Renaud, which had to be got rid of before the preliminary; 
preparation could be made. 

1 Kincaid, Adventures in the Rifle Brigade, p. 104. 


This little work was dealt with in the most drastic and 
summary way. On the same evening on which the army 
crossed the Agueda and invested the fortress, the Light Division 
was ordered to take the redoubt by escalade, without any 
preliminary battering. In the dark it was calculated that the 
converging fires from the convent of San Francisco and the 
northern walls would be of little importance, since the French 
could hardly shell the work at random during an assault, for 
fear of hitting their own men ; and the attacking column would 
be covered by the night till the very moment when it reached 
its goal. 

Colonel Colborne led the storming-party, which consisted of 
450 men, two companies from each British battalion, and one 
each from the 1st and 3rd Cacadores 1 . His arrangements have 
received well-deserved praise from every narrator of the 
enterprise. The column was conducted to within fifty yards of 
the redoubt without being discovered ; then the two rifle 
companies and two of the 52nd doubled out to the crest of the 
glacis, encircled the work on all sides, and, throwing themselves 
on the ground, began a deliberate and accurate fire upon the 
heads of the garrison, as they ran to the rampart, roused at last 
by the near approach of the stormers. So close and deadly was 
the fire of this ring of trained marksmen, that after a few minutes 
the French shrank from the embrasures, and crouched behind 
their parapets, contenting themselves with throwing a quantity 
of grenades and live shells at haphazard into the ditch. Their 
three cannon were only fired once ! Such casual and ineffective 
opposition could not stop the veterans of the Light Division. 
For three companies of the 43rd and 52nd, forming the escalading 
detachment, came rushing up to the work, got into the ditch 
by descending the ladders which were provided for them, and 
then reared them a second time against the fraises of the ram- 
part, up which they scrambled without much difficulty, finding 
the scarp not too steep and without a revetement. The garrison 

1 I take Colborne' s own account (see letter in his life by Moore Smith, 
p. 166). There were two companies each from the l/43rd, l/52nd, 2/52nd, 
and 95th, and one from each Cacador battalion. Jones wrongly says 
(]). 116) three companies of the 52nd only, Napier (as usual) omits all 
mention of the Portuguese. Cf. Harry Smith's Autobiography, i. p. 55. 


flinched at once — most of them ran into their guard-house or 
crouched under the guns, and surrendered tamely. At the same 
time entrance was forced at another point, the gorge, where 
a company, guided by Gurwood of the 52nd, got in at the gate, 
which was either unlocked by some of the French trying to 
escape, or accidentally blown open by a live shell dropped against 
it \ Of the garrison two captains and forty-eight rank and file 
were unwounded prisoners, three were killed, and about a dozen 
more wounded. No more than four, it is said, succeeded in 
getting back into the town 2 . This sudden exploit only cost the 
stormers six men killed, and three officers 3 and sixteen men 
wounded. Colborne remarks in his report that all the losses 
were during the advance or in the ditch, not a man was hurt in 
the actual escalade, for the enemy took cover and gave way, 
instead of trying to meet the stormers with the bayonet. 

The moment that the redoubt was stormed, the French 
gunners in the city and the convent of San Francisco opened 
a furious fire upon it, hoping to make it untenable. But this 
did little harm, for Colborne withdrew the stormers at once — 
and the important spot that night was no longer the work but 
the ground behind it, which was left unsearched. For here, by 
Wellington's orders, a first parallel 600 yards long was opened, 
and approaches to it along the top of the Teson were planned 
out. So little was the digging hindered, that by dawn the 
trenches were everywhere three feet deep and four broad, sites 
for three batteries had been marked out, and a communication 
had been run from the parallel up to the redoubt, whose rear 
wall was broken down into the ditch, so as to make it easily 

It had been calculated that if the assault had failed, the 

1 In Moorsom's History of the 52nd it is stated that a sergeant of the 
French artillery, while in the act of throwing a live shell, was shot dead : 
the shell fell back within the parapet, and was kicked away by one of the 
garrison, on which it rolled down into the gorge, was stopped by the gate, 
and then exploded and blew it open (p. 152). 

2 So Belmas, iv. p. 266. Barrie's report says that there were 60 infantry 
and 18 gunners inside altogether. It is an accurate and very modest 
narrative, in which there is nothing to correct. 

a Mein and Woodgate of the 52nd, and Hawkesley of the 95th. The 
last named died of his wounds. 


redoubt could only have been reduced by regular battering for 
five days — that amount of time, therefore, was saved by the 
escalade. The operation contrasts singularly with the fruitless 
assaults on Fort San Cristobal at Badajoz during the summer 
months of the preceding year, to which it bore a considerable 
similarity. The difference of results may be attributed mainly 
to the superiority of the arrangements made by Colborne, more 
especially to the great care that he took to keep down the fire 
of the besieged by a very large body of marksmen pushed close 
up to the walls, and to the way in which he had instructed each 
officer in charge of a unit as to the exact task that was imposed 
on him. At San Cristobal there had been much courage dis- 
played, but little management or intelligence in the command. 

On the morning of January 9th, the first parallel, along the 
front of the Great Teson, was not so far advanced as to afford 
good cover, and the working parties were kept back till dark, and 
employed in perfecting the approaches from the rear : only 
fifty men were slipped forward into the dismantled Redout 
Renaud, to improve the lodgement there. The garrison fired 
fiercely all day on the parallel, but as there was little to shoot 
at, very small damage was done. At noon the 1st Division 
relieved the Light Division at the front : for the rest of the 
siege the arrangement was that each division took twenty-four 
hours at the front in turn, and then returned to its camp. The 
order of work was : 

Light Division 8th-9th January, 12th-13th, 16th-17th, and 
for the storm on the 19th. 

1st Division 9th-10th, 13th-14th, 17th-18th. 

4th Division lOth-llth, 14th-15th, 18th-19th. 

3rd Division llth-12th, 15th-16th, and for the storm on 
the 19th. 

The 1st Division had very responsible work on the second 
night of the siege, for when darkness had set in the first parallel 
had to be made tenable, and the three batteries in front of it 
developed. Owing to the very powerful artillery of the besieged, 
it was settled that the batteries were to be made of exceptional 
strength and thickness — with a parapet of no less than 18 feet 
breadth at the top. To procure the necessary earth it was 
determined that an exterior ditch should be dug in front of 


them, and that their floor (lerre-plain) should be sunk 3 feet 
below the level of the hillside within. A row of large gabions 
was placed in front of the exterior ditch to give cover to the 
men digging it. 

Great progress was made with the work under cover of the 
night, but when morning came the besieged, whose fire had 
been at haphazard during the night, could see the works and 
commenced to shoot more accurately. A curious contretemps 
was discovered at dawn. By some miscalculation the locality 
of the left-hand battery had been laid out a little too far to the 
east, so that half its front was blocked by the ruins of the 
Redout Renaud. This, of course, was the effect of working 
in pitch darkness, when the outline of that work was invisible 
even from a score or so of yards away. Possibly the error 
may have originated from the fact that, early in the night, the 
directing engineer officer, Captain Ross, was killed by a flanking 
shot from the convent of San Francisco. Thus the men con- 
structing the battery had been deprived of all superior direction. 
In the morning Colonel Fletcher directed that the east end of 
the battery should have no guns ; the five which should have 
been placed there were to be transferred to the right-hand 
battery, which thus became designed for sixteen guns instead 
of eleven 1 . 

On the lOth-llth January, when the 4th Division had charge 
of the trenches the first parallel was nearly completed, the 
batteries continued to be built up, magazine emplacements were 
constructed in them, and a trench of communication between 
them was laid out. When daylight revealed to the French the 
exact situation of the three batteries, which were now showing 
quite clearly, a very fierce fire was opened on them, the rest of 
the works being neglected. The losses, which had hitherto 
been insignificant, began to grow heavy, and so many men were 
hit in the exterior trenches, which were being dug in front of 
each battery, that Wellington and Colonel Fletcher gave orders 

1 This mistake is acknowledged in Jones's Sieges, i. p. 120, and much 
commented on by Burgoyne [Life and Correspondence, i. p. 161], who 
complains that an immense amount of work was wasted, two nights' 
digging put in, the ierre-plain levelled, and even some platforms laid, 
before the error was detected. 


that they should be discontinued. Heavy damage was done 
to the batteries themselves — the French adopted a system of 
firing simultaneous flights of shells with long fuses at given 
points, * of which several falling together upon the parapets 
blew away in an instant the work of whole hours.' 

On the llth-12th, with the 3rd Division in charge, the work 
was continued ; the platforms were placed in the batteries, and 
the splinter-proof timbers laid over the magazine emplacements. 
But half the exertion of the men had to be expended in repairs : 
as each section of the batteries was completed, part of it was 
ruined by the besiegers' shells. ' The nights were long and bitter 
cold, and the men could not decently be kept working for twelve 
hours on end V especially when it was considered that they 
had to march four or five miles from their camps to the trenches 
before commencing their task of digging, so that they did not 
arrive fresh on the ground. Reliefs were therefore arranged to 
exchange duty at one hour after midnight, so that no man was 
at work for more than half of the cold hours of darkness. 

On the 12th-13th, with the Light Division doing its second 
turn at the front, the batteries were nearly completed, despite 
of much heart-breaking toil at repairs. Wellington, before 
starting the task of battering, put the problem to Colonel 
Fletcher as to whether it would be possible to breach the walls 
with the batteries in the first parallel, or whether these would 
only be useful for subduing the fire of the besieged, and the 
actual breaching would have to be accomplished by another 
set of batteries, to be placed in a second parallel which was, as 
yet, contemplated but not begun. Fletcher, after some cogita- 
tion, replied that he thought it could be done, though Ney, in 
the siege of 1810, had failed in such a project, and had breached 
the walls with batteries in situations much farther forward. 
Wellington's inquiry was dictated by his doubt as to whether 
Marmont and Dorsenne might not be in a position to appear 
with a heavy relieving force, before a second parallel could be 
thrown up. There were, as yet, no signs of such a danger ; the 
enemy having apparently been taken completely unawares by 
the opening of the siege. But if the second parallel advanced 
no faster in proportion than the first, and had to be built on 
1 Burgoyne, i. p. 162. 


much more dangerous ground, it was clear that there was a risk 
of its taking an inordinate time to complete. On Fletcher's 
conclusion being made, Wellington decided that he would try- 
to breach the walls with his original batteries, but would push 
forward a second parallel also : if Marmont and Dorsenne 
showed signs of rapid concentration, he would try to storm the 
place before the trenches were pressed forward to the neighbour- 
hood of the walls. If they did not, he would proceed in more 
regular style, build a second and perhaps a third parallel, with 
batteries close to the enceinte, and end by blowing in the 
counterscarp, and assaulting from close quarters. 

This resolution having been formed, Wellington ordered the 
second parallel to be commenced on the night of the 13th-14th, 
with the 1st Division in charge. Despite of a heavy fire from 
the French, who discovered (by throwing fire-balls) that men 
were at work in front of the first parallel, an approach by flying 
sap was pushed out, from the extreme right end of the original 
trenches, down the slope which separates the Great from the 
Lesser Teson, and a short length of excavation was made on the 
western end of the latter height, enough to allow of a small 
guard finding cover. This move brought the besiegers very close 
to the fortified convent of Santa Cruz, outside the north-western 
walls of the city, and lest it should give trouble during the 
succeeding operations Wellington ordered it to be stormed. 
The troops employed were 300 volunteers from the Line brigade 
of the German Legion and one company of the 5/60th. They 
broke down the palisades of the convent with axes, under 
a heavy fire, and as they entered the small garrison fled with 
some loss. That of the stormers was 6 killed and 1 officer and 
33 men wounded \ Only by clearing the French out of this post 
could the zig-zags leading down from the first to the second 
parallel be completed without paying a heavy price in lives, for 
the musketry of the convent would have enfiladed them in 
several places. The same night the siege-guns, which had 
reached the camp on the 11th, were moved into the three 

1 See Schwertfeger's History of the German Legion, i. p. 353. Jones 
(Sieges, i. p. 125) is quite wrong in saying that the convent was carried 
' with no loss.' 


Next day (January 14-15) was a very lively one. General 
Barrie was convinced that the establishment of a second 
parallel on the Lesser Teson, only 200 yards from his walls, 
must not be allowed at any cost, and executed a sortie with 
500 men, all that he could spare from the garrison. He (very 
cleverly) chose for his time the hour (11 a.m.) when the 4th 
Division was relieving the workmen of the First, for, as Jones 
remarks, ' a bad custom prevailed that as soon as the division 
to be relieved saw the relieving division advancing, the guards 
and workmen were withdrawn from the trenches, and the works 
were left untenanted for some time during the relief, which the 
French could observe from the steeple of the cathedral, where 
there was always an officer on the look-out.' 

The sortie recaptured the convent of Santa Cruz, swept along 
the second parallel, where it upset the gabions and shovelled 
in some of the earth, and then made a dash at the first parallel, 
where it might have done much mischief in the batteries if 
General Graham and the engineer officer on duty had not 
collected a few belated workmen of the 24th and 42nd, who 
made a stand behind the parapet, and opened a fire which 
checked the advance till the relieving division came running 
up from the rear. The French then turned and retired with 
little loss into the place. 

The advanced parallel and Santa Cruz were not reoccupied 
while daylight lasted, but at about 4.30 in the afternoon the 
three batteries opened with the 27 guns, which had been placed 
in them. Two 18-pounders in the left battery were directed 
against the convent of San Francisco, the rest against the 
northern part of the city, on the same point where Ney's breach 
had been made in 1810. Of the gunners, 430 in number, nearly 
300 were Portuguese \ The fire opened so late in the day 
that by the time that it was growing steady and accurate 
dusk fell, and it was impossible to judge what its future effect 
would be. 

Meanwhile, when the big guns were silent, the work of pre- 
paring for the nearer approach was resumed after dark. The 
most important move on the night of the 14th-15th was the 
storming of the convent of San Francisco by three companies 
1 See Dickson Papers, Jan. 1812. 


of the 40th regiment. The garrison made little resistance, and 
retired, abandoning three guns and two wounded men. Imme- 
diately afterwards the posts in the neighbouring suburb were 
all withdrawn by Barrie, who considered that he could not 
afford to lose men from his small force in the defence of outlying 
works, when his full strength was needed for the holding of the 
town itself. Santa Cruz, on the other side, though recovered in 
the morning, was abandoned on this same night for identical 
reasons. The French general was probably wise, but it was 
a great profit to the besiegers to be relieved from the flanking 
fire of both these convents, which would have enfiladed the 
two ends of the second parallel. That work itself was re- 
occupied under the cover of the night : the gabions upset during 
the sortie of the morning were replaced, and much digging was 
done behind them. The zig-zags of the approach from the 
upper trenches on the Great Teson were deepened and improved. 
All this was accomplished under a heavy fire from the guns on 
the northern walls, which were so close to the second parallel 
that their shells, even in the dark, did considerable damage. 

When day dawned on the 15th, the breaching batteries on the 
Great Teson opened again with excellent effect. Their fire was 
concentrated on the rebuilt wall of the enceinte, where the 
French breach of 1810 had been mended. It was necessary to 
batter both the town wall proper and the fausse-braye below it, 
so as to make, as it were, an upper and a lower breach, corre- 
sponding to each other, in the two stages of the enceinte. It 
will be remembered that, as was explained in our narrative of 
the French siege \ the mediaeval ramparts of the old wall 
showed well above the eighteenth-century fausse-braye which 
ran around and below them, while the latter was equally visible 
above the glacis, which, owing to the downward slope fro: 
the Little Teson, gave much less protection than was desirabl 
to the work behind it. The French breach had been carefull 
built up ; but, lime being scarce in the neighbourhood, th 
mortar used in its repairs had been of inferior quality, littl 
better than clay in many places. The stones, therefore, ha 

1 See vol. iii. p. 239. The illustration of Rodrigo on the mornii 
after the storm, inserted to face page 176 of this volume, shows the 
facts excellently. 



never set into a solid mass, even eighteen months after they 
had been laid, and began to fly freely under the continuous 

The breaching being so successful from the first, Wellington 
resolved to hurry on his operations, though there were still no 
signs that Marmont or Dorsenne was about to attempt any 
relief of the garrison. Yet it was certain that they must be on 
the move, and every day saved would render the prospect of 
their interference less imminent. Accordingly it was settled 
that the second parallel should be completed, and that, if 
possible, more batteries should be placed in it, but that it was 
to be looked upon rather as the base from which an assault 
should be delivered than as the ground from which the main 
part of the breaching work was to be done. That was to be 
accomplished from the original parallel on the Great Teson, and 
one more battery was marked out on this hill, close to the 
Redout Renaud, but a little lower down the slope, and slightly 
in advance of the three original batteries. From this new 
structure, whose erection would have been impossible so long 
as San Francisco was still held by the French, Wellington 
proposed to batter a second weak point in the enceinte, a 
mediaeval tower three hundred yards to the right of the original 
breach. All the attention of the French being concentrated on 
the work in the second parallel, this new battery (No. 4) was 
easily completed and armed in three days, and was ready to 
open on its objective on January 18th. 

Meanwhile the completion of the second parallel proved 
a difficult and rather costly business. By Wellington's special 
orders all the energies of the British batteries were devoted to 
breaching, and no attempt was made to subdue the fire of those 
parts of the enceinte which bore upon the trenches, but were 
far from the points selected for assault. Hence the French, 
undisturbed by any return, were able to shoot fast and furiously 
at the advanced works, and searched the second parallel from 
end to end. It was completed on the 18th, and two guns were 
brought down into a battery built on the highest point of the 
Little Teson, only 180 yards from the walls. An attempt to 
sap forward from the western end of the second parallel, so as 
to get a lodgement a little nearer to the place, was completely 


foiled by the incessant fire of grape kept up on the sap-head. 
After many workmen had been killed, the endeavour to push 
forward at this point was abandoned, such an advance forming 
no essential part of Wellington's scheme. The enemy's fire on 
the second parallel was made somewhat less effective on the 
16th-18th by digging rifle-pits in front of the parallel, from 
which picked marksmen kept up a carefully aimed fusillade on the 
embrasures of the guns to left and right of the breach. Many 
artillerymen were shot through the head while serving their 
pieces, and the discharges became less incessant and much less 
accurate. But the fire of the besieged was never subdued, and 
the riflemen in the pits suffered very heavy casualties. 

The 18th may be described as the crucial day of the siege. 
The new battery (No. 4) on the Greater Teson opened that 
morning against the tower which had been chosen as its objective. 
By noon it was in a very ruinous condition, and at dusk all its 
upper part fell forward ' like an avalanche,' as the governor 
says in his report, and covered all the platform of the fausse-braye 
below. Barrie remarks that this point was admirably chosen 
by Wellington's engineers, ' it was unique in the enceinte for the 
facilities which it offered for breaching and the difficulties for 
defence. This is the spot where the walls are lowest, the 
parapet thinnest, and the platforms both of the ramparts and 
the fausse-braye narrowest. Moreover here had been situated 
the gun which best flanked the original great breach V 

The garrison found it impossible either to repair the breaches 
or to clear away the debris which had fallen from them. All 
that could be done was to commence retrenchments and 
inner defences behind them. This was done with some effect 
at the great breach, where cuts were made in the ramparts on 
each side of the demolished section, parapets thrown up behind 
the cuts, and two 24-pounders dragged into position to fire 
laterally into the lip of the easy slope of debris which trended 
up to the ruined wall. At the second or smaller breach much 
less was accomplished — the warning was short, for it had never 
been guessed that this tower was to be battered, and the space 
upon whic hwork could be done was very limited. It was hoped 
that the narrowness of the gap might be its protection — it was 
1 See Barrie's report in appendix to Belmas, iv. p. 299. 


tteries thus ; 

'B.V.^a^J^sWe, Qx^rrd, jc(|^ 


but a seam in the wall compared with the gaping void at the 
first and greater breach. 

On the morning of the 19th the fire was recommenced, with 
some little assistance from the two guns which had now begun 
to work from the advanced battery in the second parallel. The 
breaches continued to crumble : that at the tower looked as 
easy in slope (though not nearly so broad) as that at the original 
point of attack, and an incessant fire all day kept the enemy 
from making any repairs. No more could be done for the 
breaches, wherefore Wellington ordered that some of the siege- 
guns should turn their attention to silencing the French fire 
from the remoter points of the northern wall. Several of their 
guns were dismounted : but even by dusk there were many still 
making reply. 

There was now nothing to prevent the assault from being 
delivered, since it had been settled that no attempt was to be 
made to sap up nearer the walls, or to blow in the counterscarp. 
Wellington wrote his elaborate directions for the storm sitting 
under cover in a trench of one of the advanced approaches, to 
which he had descended in order to get the closest possible view 
of the fortress 1 . 

The orders were as follows. The chosen time was seven 

o'clock, an hour sufficiently dark to allow the troops to get 

I forward without being seen as they filled the trenches, yet soon 

; enough after nightfall to prevent the French from doing any 

| appreciable repairs to the breaches under cover of the dark. 

The main assaults were to be delivered by the 3rd Division 
| on the great breach, and by the Light Division on the lesser 
breach. There were also to be two false attacks delivered by 
small bodies of Portuguese troops, with the purpose of distract- 
ing the attention of the besieged to points remote from the 
main assault : either of them might be turned into serious 
attempts at escalade if the circumstances favoured. 

The two brigades of the 3rd Division were given two separate 
ways of approaching the main breach. Campbell's brigade 
[2/5th, 77th, 2/83rd, 94th], after detaching the 2/83rd to line 
the second parallel, and to keep up a continual fire on the walls, 
was to assemble behind the ruined convent of Santa Cruz. 
1 Jones's Sieges, i. p. 137. 




Debouching from thence, the 2/5th, turning to the right, were 
to make for the place where the counterscarp (covering the 
whole north front) joined with the body of the place, under the 
castle and not far from the river. They were to hew down the 
gate by which the ditch was entered, jump down into it, and 
from thence scale the fausse-braye by ladders, of which a dozen, 
25 feet long, were issued to them. It was probable that there 
would be few French found here, as the point was 500 yards 
west of the main breach. After establishing themselves upon 
the fausse-braye, they were to scour it eastward, clearing off any 
parties of the enemy that might be found upon it, and to push 
for the breach, where they would meet the main assaulting 
column. The 94th were to make a similar dash at the ditch, 
half-way between the point allotted to the 5th and the breach, 
but not to mount the fausse-braye : they were to move to their | 
left along the bottom of the ditch, clearing away any palisades or ! 
other obstacles that might be found in it, and finally to join the; 
main column. The 77th was to form the brigade-reserve, andi 
support where necessary. 

Mackinnon's brigade was to undertake the frontal storm of I 
the great breach. Its three battalions (l/45th, 74th, l/88th)l 
were to be preceded by a detachment of 180 sappers carrying, 
hay-bags, which were to be thrown into the ditch to make the 
leap down more easy. The head of the column was to b( 
formed by 300 volunteers from all the battalions, then came 
the main body in their usual brigade order, the l/45th leading. 
Power's Portuguese (9th and 21st Line) formed the divisions 
reserve, and were to be brought down to the second parallel 
when Mackinnon's column had ascended the breach. 

A support on the left flank of the breach was to be providec 
by three companies of the 95th, detached from the Light Divi- 
sion, who, starting from beside the convent of San Francisco j 
were to carry out the same functions that were assigned to th( 
94th on the other side, viz. to descend into the ditch half-wa} 
between the two breaches, and proceed along its bottom 1 
removing any obstacles found, till they joined Mackinnon': 
brigade at the foot of the wall. 

Craufurd, with the rest of the Light Division, which was 
move from the left of San Francisco, was to make the attac 


on the lesser breach. The storming-column was to be formed 
of Vandeleur's brigade (l/52nd and 2/52nd, four companies of 
the l/95th, and the 3rd Cacadores). Barnard's brigade was to 
form the reserve, and to close in towards the place when the 
leading brigade should reach the ditch. The division was to 
detach marksmen (four companies of the 95th) who were to 
keep up a fire upon the enemy on the walls, just as the 2/83rd 
did for the 3rd Division. A provision of hay-bags carried by 
cacadores was made, in the same fashion as at the great breach. 

The two subsidiary false attacks were to be made — one by 
Pack's Portuguese (1st and 16th regiments) on the outworks 
of the gate of Santiago on the south-east side of the town, the 
other by O'Toole's Portuguese battalion (2nd Cacadores), 
headed by the light company of the 2/83rd, on the outwork 
below the castle, close to the bank of the Agueda. This column 
would have to rush the bridge, which the French had left 
unbroken, because it was completely commanded by the castle 
and other works immediately above it. Both the Portuguese 
columns carried ladders, and were authorized to attempt an 
escalade, if they met little or no resistance at points so remote 
from the breaches, as was quite possible. 

Both the Light and 3rd Divisions were fresh troops that 
night, as the 4th Division had been in charge of the trenches 
on the 19th. The stormers marched straight up from their 
distant camps to the starting-points assigned to them in the 
afternoon. The news that the Light Division had moved to the 
front out of its turn was the clearest indication to the whole 
army that the assault was fixed for that night. 

A few minutes before seven o'clock the storm began, by the 
I sudden rush of the 2/5th, under Major Ridge, from behind 
I the convent of Santa Cruz, across the open ground towards the 
i ditch on their left of the castle. The governor had expected 
no attack from this side, the troops on the walls were few, and 
it was only under a very scattering fire that the battalion 
i hewed down the gate in the palisades, got down into the ditch, 
; and then planted their ladders against the fausse-braye. They 
| were established upon it within five minutes of their start, and 
| then, turning to their left, drove along its platform, chasing 
, before them a few small parties of the enemy. In this way they 

N 2 


soon arrived at the heap of ruins representing the spot where 
fausse-braye and inner wall had been wellnigh battered into one 
common mass of debris. Here they found the 94th, who had 
entered the ditch at the same time as themselves, but a little 
to their left, and had met with equally feeble resistance, already 
beginning to mount the lower slopes of the breach. Thus by 
a curious chance these two subsidiary columns arrived at the 
crucial point a little before the forlorn hope of the main storming- 
column. Mackinnon's brigade, starting from the parallels, had 
to climb over the parapets of the trenches, and to cross rougher 
ground than the 5th and 94th : they were also hindered by the 
tremendous fire opened upon them : all the attention of the 
French had been concentrated on them from the first, as their 
route and their destination were obvious. Hence, unlike 
Campbell's battalions, they suffered heavily before they crossed 
the glacis, and they were delayed a little by waiting for the 
hay-bags which were to help their descent. When the storming- 
party, under Major Manners of the 74th, reached the breach, 
it was already covered by men of the 5th and 94th. The whole, 
mixed together, scrambled up the higher part of the debris 
under a deadly fire, and reached the lip of the breach, where 
they found before them a sixteen-foot drop into the level of the 
city, on to ground covered with entanglements, beams, chevaux 
defrise, and other obstacles accumulated there by the prescience 
of the governor. On each flank, for the whole breadth of the 
wall, was a cutting, surmounted by a parapet, on which was 
mounted a 24-pounder firing grape downwards on to them. 

The head of the column had scarcely gained the lip of th 
breach when it was raked by the simultaneous discharge of 
these two guns, which absolutely exterminated the knot of me 
at its head. At the same time an explosion took place lower 
down, from some powder-bags which the enemy had left among 
the debris and fired by means of a train. The impetus of the 
column was checked, and it was some little time before mor 
men fought their way up to the summit : a second discharge 
from the two flanking guns made havoc of these, and shut in by 
the cuts, upon a space of about 100 feet wide, with the imprac- 
ticable descent into the town in front, the assailants came to 
a stand again. The only way out of the difficulty was to cross 


the cuts, and storm the parapets behind them. This was done 
at both ends : on the one side a small party of the 88th, throw- 
ing down their muskets, so as to have hands to climb with, 
scrambled over the gap and slew with their bayonets the gunners 
at the left-hand gun, before they could fire a third round : they 
were followed by many men of the 5th, and a footing was 
gained on the ramparts behind the obstacle . On the right 
flank Major Wylde, the brigade-major of Mackinnon's brigade, 
found a few planks which the French had been using to bridge 
the cut before the storm, and which they had thrown down but 
neglected to remove. These were relaid in haste, and a mass of 
men of the 45th rushed across them under a dreadful fire, and 
forced the right-hand retrenchment. The garrison, giving way 
at both ends, fired a mine prepared under a postern of the 
upper wall as they retired 2 . This produced an explosion much 
more deadly than the one at the commencement of the storm ; 
it slew among others General Mackinnon, the senior brigadier 
of the 3rd Division, whose body was found thrown some 
distance away and much blackened with powder. 

Meanwhile, even before the fighting at the great breach was 
over, the fate of Ciudad Rodrigo had been settled at another 
point. The storm of the lesser breach by the Light Division 
had been successful, after a shorter fight and with much less 
loss of blood. Vandeleur's brigade here conducted the assault, 
headed by 300 volunteers from the three British regiments of 
the division under Major George Napier of the 52nd : Lieutenant 
Gurwood of the same regiment had the forlorn hope of 25 men. 
The column did not come under fire for some time after leaving 
cover, but the assault had been expected, and a keen watch 
was being kept. Nevertheless the ditch was reached without 
any great loss, and the stormers leaped in, unaided for the most 
part by the hay-bags which 150 of Elder's cacadores were to 

1 For a lively account of this exploit see Grattan's With the Connaught 
Rangers, p. 154. 

2 Many narratives speak of General Mackinnon as being killed by the 
first explosion, and others (including Wellington's dispatch) call the second 
explosion that of an expense magazine fired by accident. Barrie's report, 
however, settles the fact that it was a regular mine : and for Mackinnon's 
death after the storming of the cuts I follow the narrative by an eye- 
witness appended at the end of the general's diary. 


have cast down for them, for the greater part of the Portuguese 
were late in arriving \ They then began to plant their ladders, 
but the forlorn hope went wrong in an odd way, for moving too 
far to the left along the fausse-braye they scrambled up and over 
a traverse 2 which had been built across it, so finding themselves 
still on the same level. The head of the main storming party 
was better directed, and poured up the breach, which was very 
narrow but clean and clear : the only obstacle at its head was a 
disabled gun placed horizontally across the gap. Another piece, 
still in working order, had a diagonal view of the whole slope. 
The first discharge of this gun, crammed with grape, shattered 
the head of the column : Major Napier was dashed down with 
a mangled arm, Colonel Colborne, who was leading the 52nd, 
got a ball in the shoulder, and several other officers fell. At 
about the same moment General Craufurd, who was standing 
on the glacis above the ditch, directing the movements of the 
supports, received a bullet which passed through his arm, broke 
two ribs, and finally lodged in his spine. By his mortal hurt 
and the almost simultaneous wounding of his senior brigadier, 
Vandeleur, the command of the Light Division passed to 
Andrew Barnard of the 95th, who was leading the rear 

But the division had been started on its way up the breac 
and the gun on its flank got no second opportunity to fire. Afte 
its first discharge the survivors at the head of the column, no 
led by Uniacke and W. Johnston both of the 95th, dashe 
furiously up the remaining few feet of debris and reached th 
summit. The voltigeurs facing them broke before the onset, 
and since there were here no traverses or cuts to prevent th 
extension of the troops to right or left as they reached thei 
goal, many hundreds were soon in possession of the rampart* 

1 Several narrators accuse them of shirking, but Geo. Napier write; 
{Life, p. 215), ' Neither Elder nor his excellent regiment were likely t( 
neglect any duty, and I am sure the blame rested elsewhere, for Georg 
Elder was always ready for any service.' Compare George Simmons'! 
autobiography — possibly he put things out by ordering the Portugues 
company to carry the ladders, which he clearly was not authorized to d( 
[A British Rifleman, p. 221.] 

2 Some narrators say a low ravelin, but the best authority is in favoi 
of its having been a traverse. 


on each side of the breach. The men of the 52nd wheeled to the 
left and swept the ramparts as far as the Salamanca gate, which 
they found walled up : the 43rd and Rifles turned to the right, 
and came upon the French retreating from the great breach, 
where the 3rd Division were just bursting through. Some of 
them arrived just in time to suffer from the final explosion 
which killed Mackinnon and so many of his brigade \ 

With their line forced in two places simultaneously, the 
garrison could do no more : there was a little fighting in the 
streets, but not much. The majority of the garrison retired 
to the Plaza Mayor in front of the castle, and there laid down 
their arms in mass. At the same time the two Portuguese 
subsidiary attacks had succeeded. O'Toole's cacadores, headed 
by the light company of the 2/83rd, had not only captured by 
escalade the outwork against which they were directed, but 
found and hewed down its sally-port by which they got entrance 
into the town. Pack's brigade, on the other side of the place, 
stormed the redan in front of the Santiago gate, and lodged 
themselves therein, capturing its small garrison. The governor 
and his staff had taken refuge in the castle, a mediaeval building 
with a lofty square tower commanding the Agueda bridge. 
They had hardly any men with them, and wisely surrendered 
at the first summons 2 . 

Seven thousand excited and victorious soldiers, with all 
traces of regimental organization lost, were now scattered 
through the streets of Ciudad Rodrigo. This was the first time 
on which the Peninsular Army had taken a place by assault, 

1 The point has often been raised as to whether it was not the success 
of the Light Division at the lesser breach which enabled the 3rd Division 
to break through at the greater. Some Light Division diarists (e.g. Harry 
Smith) actually state that it was their attack on the rear of the defenders 
which made them flinch from a position which they had hitherto maintained. 
I think that the case is decided in favour of the 3rd Division by Belmas's 
statement that the French fired the mine at the great breach only when 
the 3rd Division had got through, combined with the fact that the leading 
men of the Light Division reached the back of the great breach just in 
time to suffer from the explosion, which killed Captain Uniacke of the 95th 
and a few others. Apparently, therefore, the breach was forced before 
the head of the Light Division stormers had come up, but only just before. 

2 There is considerable controversy as to what officer received Barrie's 
surrender. For the Gurwood-Mackie dispute see note in Appendix. 


and the consequent confusion does not seem to have been fore- 
seen by any one. But while the officers and the steady men 
were busy in collecting the French prisoners, throwing open 
the gates, and seeing to the transport of the wounded into 
houses, the baser spirits — and in every battalion, as Sir John 
Colborne remarks 1 , there were in those days from fifty to a 
hundred incorrigibles — turned to plunder. The first rush was 
to the central brandy-store of the garrison, where hundreds got 
drunk in a few minutes, and several killed themselves by 
gorging raw spirits wholesale. But while the mere drunkards 
proceeded to swill, and then turned out into the streets firing 
objectlessly in the air, the calculating rascals set themselves to 
the plunder of private houses, which was a more profitable task 
than rummaging the French magazines. There was an immense 
amount of unlicensed pillage and wanton destruction of 
property — inexcusable in a place where only a small minority 
of the people were Afrancesados, and the majority had been 
getting ready to welcome their deliverers. The officers did 
their best to restore order, ' the voice of Sir Thomas Picton 
was heard with the strength of twenty trumpets proclaiming 
damnation to all and sundry, while Colonels Barnard and 
Cameron with other active officers, seized the broken barrels of 
muskets, which were lying about in great abundance, and 
belaboured misdemeanants most unmercifully 2 .' But active 
officers could not be everywhere — three houses, including the 
spirit store in the great square, were set on fire by drunken 
plunderers, and it was feared that a conflagration might arise, 
which fortunately did not happen, for the solid stone structures 
were not easily kindled. The disorder, however, did not reach 
the shameful pitch which was afterwards seen at Badajoz and 
St. Sebastian. A competent observer, present at all three 
sacks, remarks that c no town taken by assault suffered less than 
Rodrigo. It is true that soldiers of all regiments got drunk, 
pillaged, and made great noise and confusion in streets and 
houses, despite of every exertion of their officers to prevent it. 
But bad and revolting as such scenes are, I never heard that 
either the French garrison, after its surrender, or the inhabitants 

1 See his Life and Letters, p. 396. 

9 Kincaid, Adventures in the Rifle Brigade, p. 117. 


suffered personal indignities or cruelty from the troops V There 
were apparently no lives lost, except those of a few men shot 
accidentally by their drunken comrades, and of certain drunkards 
who perished in the spirit store. The greater part of the men 
were under control long before dawn, and were collected by their 
officers on the ramparts : they marched out next morning, 
when the 5th Division, newly arrived at the front from its 
distant cantonments in Beira, came into the town. By an 
unfortunate accident an explosion of an unsuspected magazine 
took place, just as the French prisoners were being marched out, 
and some of them and of their escort were killed 2 . The storming 
regiments made a strange spectacle as they left the town. ' As 
we marched over the bridge dressed in all varieties imaginable, 
some with jack-boots on, others with white French trousers, 
others in frock-coats with epaulettes, some even with monkeys 
on their shoulders, we met the 5th Division on their way to 
repair the breaches. They immediately formed upon the left 
of the road, presented arms, and cheered us. I was afterwards 
told that Lord Wellington, who saw us pass, inquired of his 
staff, " Who the devil are those fellows 3 ? " ' 

The garrison, out of a little under 2,000 men present when 
the siege began, showed 60 officers and 1,300 rank and file of 
unwounded prisoners. Eight officers had been killed, 21 
wounded, and about 500 rank and file, mostly on the day 
of the assault. The artillery and engineers suffered most — of 
8 artillery officers in the place 5 were killed or wounded, of 
three engineer officers two fell. 

1 Leach's Sketches in the Life of an Old Soldier, p. 250. For an amusing 
story about a plundering Connaught Ranger who came down a chimney, see 
Grattan, p. 162. He tried to propitiate the officer who found him by 
presenting him with a case of surgical instruments. Kincaid speaks of 
worse than plunder — armed violence and some cases of rape. 

2 So Napier and most other authorities. John Jones, however, says that 
the explosion was not accidental, but deliberate — some English deserters 
had hidden themselves in a small magazine under the rampart. ' These 
desperate men, on seeing an officer approach, deeming discovery and 
capture inevitable, and assured that an ignominious death would follow, 
blew themselves up in the magazine. The explosion first found vent 
through the door, and shot the refugees up into the street, some alive, but 
so mutilated, blackened, and distorted, as to be painful to behold.' 

Costello (a Light Division narrator), pp. 151-2. 


The British and Portuguese loss during the whole siege was 
9 officers killed and 70 wounded, and of other ranks 186 were 
killed and 846 wounded, with 10 missing — apparently deserters. 
Of these, 59 officers and 503 rank and file fell in the actual storm. 
The tables appended at the end of this volume demonstrate 
that the 3rd Division suffered far more heavily than the Light — 
the battalions with the greatest losses were the 2/5th and 94th, 
which were early on the great breach and got the benefit of 
the explosion. Of the 9 officers killed or mortally hurt two were 
generals, Craufurd and Mackinnon. The death of the former, 
who lingered in great agony for four days, though shot through 
to the spine, was no small event in the war : his talents were 
sadly missed in its latter years : an outpost officer of his 
capacity would have been invaluable to Wellington during the 
fighting in the Pyrenees in 1813, when the Light Division, 
though regimentally as good as ever, much lacked the skilful 
leading of its old chief. He was a man with many friends and 
many enemies : of his merits and defects I spoke at length 
in another place \ Here I feel compelled to quote nothing 
more than the words of his friend, Lord Londonderry — the 
Charles Stewart of the Peninsular War. ' He was an officer of 
whom the highest expectation had been formed, and who on 
every occasion found an opportunity to prove that, had his life 
been spared, the proudest hopes of his country would not have 
been disappointed, and he was a man to know whom in his 
profession without admiring him was impossible. To me his 
death occasioned that void which the removal of a sincere 
friend alone produces. While the memory of the brave and i 
the skilful shall continue to be cherished by British soldiers, ; 
he will not be forgotten, and the hand which scrawls this j 
humble tribute to his worth must be cold as his own, before the 
mind which dictates it shall cease to think of him with affection 
and regret 2 .' 

1 See vol. iii. pp. 233-7. 

2 Londonderry's Peninsular War, ii. p. 268. 










£ W 
O U 









The extraordinary speed with which Wellington had in 
twelve days reduced Ciudad Rodrigo, a fortress that had held 
out for twenty-four days of open trenches when besieged by 
Ney in 1810, surprised the captor himself, who had reckoned 
on taking no shorter time in its leaguer than had the French. 
But it absolutely appalled his two adversaries, Marmont and 
Dorsenne, whose whole scheme of operations had rested on the 
idea that they could count on some three weeks or more for 
preparation, when the news that the place was invested got to 
their hands. 

Thiebault, the governor of Salamanca, had been warning 
both the commander of the Army of the North and the com- 
mander of the Army of Portugal for some weeks that Wellington 
might move at any moment 1 . But his reports to the effect 
that the British were making gabions and fascines, preparing 
a bridge over the Agueda, and bringing up siege-guns to 
Almeida, made little or no impression on his superiors, because 
they had come to the conclusion that it was unlikely that 
Wellington would undertake a siege at midwinter. His prepara- 
tions, they thought, were probably intended to force his 
enemies to concentrate, at a time when roads were bad and food 
unprocurable : ' ils n'ont d'autre but que de nous faire faire de 
faux mouvements,' said one of Marmont's aides-de-camp. It 
was only in the spring that the allied army would become really 
enterprising and dangerous. 

Astonishing as it may appear, though Wellington's troops 
started on January 2nd, and though Rodrigo was invested and 
the Redout Renaud stormed on January 8th, the definitive 

1 See Thiebault's Mimoires, iv. pp. 551-2. Extracts from two of his 
letters are printed in Marmont's Memoires, iv. pp. 280-1, and bear out all 
that he says in his own book. 


news that the siege had actually begun only reached Salamanca 
on January 13th. No better proof could be given of the 
precarious nature of the French hold on the kingdom of Leon 
The fact was that the guerrilleros of Julian Sanchez so obsessed 
all the roads from Salamanca to Rodrigo, that no messenger 
could pass without a very large escort. Barrie only got the 
news that he was attacked to Thiebault by entrusting it to 
a Spanish emissary, who carried his note in disguise, and by 
a long detour. Marmont and Dorsenne only received it on the 
14th : King Joseph at Madrid only on the 25th. On the 13th 
Marmont was in such a state of blindness as to the actual 
situation that he was writing to Berthier that 4 si l'armee 
anglaise passait l'Agueda j'attendrais sur la Tormes la division 
du Tage et les troupes que le General Dorsenne pourrait 
m'amener, mats sans doute ce cas rCarrivera pas. Ciudad 
Rodrigo sera approvisionne jusqu'a la recolte, et a moins d'un 
siege il ne doit pas etre l'objet d'aucune sollicitude V Welling- 
ton, when this was written, had already passed troops over the 
Agueda some ten days back, and had been beleaguering Ciudad 
Rodrigo for five. Yet Marmont was dating from Valladolid, 
which was not much over 100 miles from the hard-pressed 
fortress. Truly, thanks to the guerrilleros, the ' fog of war ' 
was lying heavily round the Marshal. 

Owing to a circumstance of which Wellington could hav 
no knowledge, the moment which he chose for his advance wa 
even more propitious than he guessed. He knew of the marc 
of Montbrun towards Valencia, and had made it the determining 
factor in his operations. But he was not, and could not be 
aware of another fact of high importance. On December 29t 
Marmont, then at Talavera, had received a dispatch fro 
Paris, dated on the 13th of the same month, informing hi 
that the Emperor had resolved on making a sweeping chang 
with regard to the respective duties and stations of the Armie 
of the North and of Portugal. Hitherto Dorsenne had beei 
in charge of the whole kingdom of Leon : the troops stationec 
in it belonged to his army, and on him depended the garriso 
of Ciudad Rodrigo, Astorga, and its other fortresses. He was, 
therefore, responsible for the keeping back of Wellington fro: 
1 Marmont to Berthier, Valladolid, Jan. 13, 1812. 


all the ground north of the Sierra de Gata. Marmont, with his 

Army of Portugal, had to ' contain ' the Anglo-Portuguese army 

south of that range, and had charge of the valley of the Tagus — 

northern Estremadura and those parts of New Castile which 

, had been taken away from King Joseph's direct control. From 

this central position the Duke of Ragusa had hitherto been 

supposed to be able to stretch out a hand to Dorsenne, in case 

, of Wellington's making a move in the valley of the Douro, to 

Soult in case of his showing himself opposite Badajoz. This 

indeed Marmont had done : he had brought up his army 

to Dorsenne's aid in September, at the time of El Bodon and 

Aldea da Ponte : he had carried it down to the Guadiana and 

; assisted Soult to relieve Badajoz in June. 

Berthier's dispatch \ received on December 29th — it had 

taken sixteen days to reach its destination — informed Marmont 

that the Emperor had resolved to place the task of ' containing ' 

Wellington, when he should operate north of the Tagus, in the 

I hands of one instead of two commanders-in-chief. ' Considering 

! the importance of placing the command on the whole frontier 

of Portugal under a single general, His Majesty has decided 

that the provinces of Avila, Salamanca, Plasencia, Ciudad 

'■ Rodrigo, the kingdom of Leon, Palencia, and the Asturias, 

shall belong to the Army of Portugal.' Along with them were 

; to be handed over to Marmont Souham's division, then lying 

; in the direction of Zamora, Benavente, and La Baneza, and 

i Bonnet's division, then in the Asturias — whose central parts 

: (as it will be remembered 2 ) that general had reconquered in 

November 1811. The district of the Army of the North was for 

the future to be limited to the eastern parts of Old Castile, 

Santander, Biscay, and Navarre. The real cause of this change, 

though Berthier's dispatch lays no stress upon it, was the order 

recently sent to Dorsenne, which bade him return to France 

the two strong divisions of the Imperial Guard, which had 

hitherto formed the most important and effective section of 

the Army of the North. They were wanted for the probable 

Russian war, and without them Napoleon rightly judged that 

Dorsenne would be too weak to ' contain ' Wellington, hold 

1 Printed in full in Marmont's Memoires, iv. pp. 271-6. 

2 See vol. iv. p. 586. 




down all Leon, and observe the Galicians, in addition to hunting 
Mina and curbing the incursions of Longa and Porlier. Where- 
fore he resolved to confine the activity of the Army of the North 
to the lands east and north of Burgos, where its main task would 
be the crushing of Mina and his compatriots. Marmont should 
take upon his shoulders the entire responsibility for holding back 
the Anglo-Portuguese. 

But, by the Emperor's orders, the Army of Portugal, though 
now charged with a much heavier task than before, was not 
to get any appreciable increase in numbers. It is true that 
Marmont was to take over the divisions of Souham and Bonnet, 
along with the regions that they were occupying. These were 
strong units, and would have increased his total strength by 
16,000 men. But at the same time he was told that Thiebault's 
division \ the other force in the kingdom of Leon, was not to 
be given him, but to be withdrawn eastward and to remain 
under Dorsenne. With it were to go other details belonging 
to the Army of the North, employed in garrison duty in the 
valley of the Douro, such as the Swiss battalions long garrisoning 
the city of Leon, Benavente, and Valladolid 2 . Now it was clear 
that if these garrisons were withdrawn, Marmont would have 
to find other troops from his own divisions to replace them. 
Moreover, he was in addition instructed that Bonnet's division, 
though now to be regarded as under his command, was not on 
any excuse to be moved out of the Asturias. ' It is indispensable 
that he should remain there, because in that position he menaces I 
Galicia, and keeps down the people of the mountains. You 
would have to use more troops to guard all the edge of the plain | 
from Leon to St. Sebastian than are required for the Asturias. 
It is demonstrable in theory, and clearly proved by experience, | 
that of all operations the most important is the occupation oh 
the Asturias, which makes the right of the army rest upon the 
sea, and continually threatens Galicia.' 

If, therefore, Marmont was forbidden to use Bonnet, and h* 
to replace all the existing garrisons of Leon (including that oi 
Ciudad Rodrigo, as he was specially informed) by troops dra) 
from his own force, he was given a vast increase of territory 

1 34th Leger, 113th Line, 4th Vistula, Neuchatel. 

2 Also two cavalry regiments, the 1st Hussars and 31st Chasseurs. 


watch, but no appreciable increase of numbers to hold it — 
no more in fact than the difference between the strength of 
Souham's division (placed on the side of gain) and that of the 
new garrisons (placed on the side of loss). The net profit would 
be no more than 3,000 or 4,000 men at the most. 

In addition the Marshal was restricted further as to the way 
in which he was to dispose of his army. He was told to leave 
one division (or, if he chose, two) in the valley of the Tagus, 
about Plasencia and Almaraz, for the purpose of keeping up 
his communication with Madrid and Andalusia. The rest of his 
army was to be moved across the Sierra de Gata into the valley 
of the Douro, and its head-quarters were to be placed at Valla- 
dolid, or if possible at Salamanca. Therefore, if Wellington 
advanced, only four and a half, or five and a half, divisions out 
of the eight now comprising the Army of Portugal, could be 
concentrated against him with promptitude : Bonnet and the 
troops left in the Tagus valley would be long in arriving. So 
would the nearest divisions of the Army of the North, of which 
the most westerly would be as far off as Burgos, the rest still 
farther towards the Pyrenees. Till he had received some of 
these outlying succours, Marmont would be too weak to resist 
Wellington. Five divisions (say 30,000 men) could not keep 
the Anglo-Portuguese contained — though eight might very 
possibly suffice. 

But on December 29, 1811, Marmont had not eight divisions 
at his disposition. The Emperor's misguided order for the 
Valencian expedition was in progress of being executed, and 
it was precisely on that same day that Montbrun with two 
divisions of foot and one of horse was marching off eastward 
from La Mancha, in an excentric direction, which took him to 
the shore of the Mediterranean. 

Marmont's available force, after this march began, was as 
follows : 

(1) Souham's division at La Baneza, Benavente, and 

Zamora, watching Abadia's Army of Galicia. This unit 

had yet to be informed that it had become part of the 

Army of Portugal. 
(2-3) Brennier's and Maucune's divisions at Almaraz and 

Talavera in the valley of the Tagus. 


(4) Clausel's division at Avila. 

(5) Ferey's division in La Mancha, keeping up communica- 

tion with Montbrun's expeditionary column. 
The other three divisions of the Army of Portugal, as now 
constituted, those of Bonnet in the Asturias, and of Foy and 
Sarrut in march for Valencia, were hopelessly out of reach. 

Being directed, in very clear and decisive terms, to transfer 
himself in person to Valladolid or Salamanca, and to move the 
bulk of his troops thither from the valley of the Tagus, the 
Marshal had to obey. He directed Brennier's division alone to 
remain behind at Almaraz and Talavera. Maucune and Clausel, 
with Ferey presently to follow, began a toilsome march across ; 
the mountains to Leon. They had to abandon the magazines - 
(such as they were) which had been collected for their subsis- ; 
tence in winter-quarters, and to march across bad roads, in 
the most inclement month of the year, through an unpeopled 
country, for cantonments where no stores were ready for them, j 

While Marmont was marching up in the early days of January 
to occupy his newly-designated positions, Dorsenne was era-i 
ployed in withdrawing his troops eastward, away from the ' 
neighbourhood of Wellington, towards the province of Burgos. \ 
He himself stopped behind at Valladolid, to see Marmont andi 
hand over in person the charge of the districts which he was| 
ordered to evacuate. His view of the situation at the moment 
may be judged by an extract from a letter which he directed to I 
Marmont on January 5 \ 

4 I have the honour to enclose herewith two letters dated on 
the 1st and 3rd instant from General Thiebault at Salamanca.! 
I attach no credence to their contents, for during the last sixj 
months I have been receiving perpetually similar reports. . . .: 
If, contrary to my opinion, the English have really made some 
tentative movements on Ciudad Rodrigo, and if Julian Sanchez 
has tried to cut our communication with that place, I can only, 
attribute it to your recent movement on Valencia. In that 
case, the unforeseen reappearance of your Excellency here may 
make the enemy change his plan of operations, and may prove 
harmful to him.' 

Thiebault had cried 4 Wolf ! ' too often to please Dorsenne, 
1 Marmont, Correspondance, book xv bis, p. 287. 


and the latter had no real apprehension that Wellington was 
already on the move. No more had Marmont. On arriving at 
Valladolid on January 13th he wrote to Berthier (five days 
after the trenches were opened at Rodrigo !), ' It is probable 
that the English may be on the move at the end of February, 
and then I shall have need of all my troops : I have, therefore, 
told Montbrun to start on his backward march towards me 
before the end of January V By the end of January Rodrigo 
* had already been for twelve days in the hands of the British 

And if Dorsenne and Marmont were blind to the actual 
situation, so, most of all, was their master. The dispatch which 
gave over the charge of the kingdom of Leon to Marmont 
contains the following paragraph : 

4 If General Wellington (sic) after the rainy season is over 

(i.e. after February) should determine to take the offensive, 

you can then unite all your eight divisions for a battle : General 

Dorsenne from Burgos would support you, by marching up 

from Burgos to your assistance. But such a move is not to be 

expected (rfest pas presumable). The English, having suffered 

heavy losses, and experiencing great difficulties in recruiting 

i their army, all considerations tend to make us suppose that they 

! will simply confine themselves to the defence of Portugal. . . . 

! Your various dispatches seem to prove that it is at present no 

j longer possible for us to take the offensive against Portugal, 

: Badajoz being barely provisioned, and Salamanca having no 

; magazines. It is necessary, therefore, to wait till the crops of 

| the present year are ripe [June !], and till the clouds which now 

darken the political situation to the North have disappeared. 

iHis Majesty has no doubt that you will profit by the delay, to 

; organize and administer the provinces under your control with 

i justice and integrity, and to form large magazines. . . . The 

conquest of Portugal and the immortal glory of defeating 

i the English are reserved for you. Use therefore all possible 

I means to get yourselves into good condition for commencing 

'this campaign, when circumstances permit that the order for it 

jshould be given. . . . Suggestions have been made that Ciudad 

jRodrigo should be dismantled. The Emperor considers that 

1 Ibid., p. 291. 

OMAN. V q 



[Jan. 11 

this would be a great mistake : the enemy, establishing himself 
in that position, would be able to intercept the communications 
between Salamanca and Plasencia, and that would be deplorable. 
The English know quite well that if they press in upon Rodrigo, 
or invest it, they expose themselves to be forced to deliver 
a battle — that is the last thing they want : however, if they did 
so expose themselves, it would be your duty to assemble your 
whole army and march straight at them 1 .' 

Such being Napoleon's views at midwinter, it is strange to 
find Napier asserting that the disasters of the French at this 
time were caused partly by the jealousies of his lieutenants, 
partly by their failing to understand his orders in their true 
spirit, so that they neglected them, or executed them without: 
vigour 2 . Without denying that Marmont, Dorsenne, and 
Soult were jealous of each other, we may assert that the real 
fundamental origin of all their disasters was that their master! 
persisted in directing the details of the war from Paris, founding 
his orders on data three weeks old, and sending those orders j 
to arrive another fortnight or three weeks after they had been 
written. As a fair example of what was perpetually happening 
we may cite the following dates. Wellington started to move 
on January 1st, 1812, as Thiebault wrote to Dorsenne (on the' 
report of a Spanish spy) on January 3rd : on January 27 the 
general information that the Anglo-Portuguese army hac 
crossed the Agueda, without any details, reached the Emperor, 
and caused him to dictate a dispatch for Dorsenne, giving hii 
leave to detain the two divisions of the Imperial Guard under 
orders for France, and to support Marmont with them : the 
Emperor added that he hoped that by January 18th Montbrur; 
would be nearing Madrid, and that by the end of the month hie 
column would have joined the Army of Portugal. Eight days 
before this dispatch was written Ciudad Rodrigo was already ii 
Wellington's hands : the news of its fall on January 19th seems 
to have reached Paris on February 11th 3 , whereupon, as w( 
shall presently see, the Emperor dictated another dispatch t( s 
Marmont, giving elaborate instructions on the new conditio! 

1 Berthier to Marmont, Dec. 13, as above. 

2 Peninsular War, iv. p. 134. 

3 Correspondence in King Joseph's Letters, viii. pp. 306-7. 


of affairs. This (travelling quicker than most correspondence) 
reached Marmont at Valladolid on February 26 * : but of what 
use to the Marshal on that day were orders dictated upon the 
basis of the state of affairs in Leon on January 19th ? ' On ne 
dirige pas la guerre a trois ou quatrc cents lieues de distance, 5 
as Thiebault very truly observed 2 . 

It was precisely Napoleon's determination to dictate such 
operations as Montbrun's Alicante expedition, or the trans- 
ference of Marmont's head-quarters from the valley of the 
Tagus to Valladolid, without any possible knowledge of the 
circumstances of his lieutenants at the moment when his orders 
would come to hand, that was the fatal thing. With wireless 
telegraphy in the modern style he might have received prompt 
intelligence, and sent directions that suited the situation. But 
i under the conditions of Spain in 1812 such a system was pure 

1 The Emperor chose,' as Marmont very truly observes, ' to 
; cut down the numbers of his troops in Spain [by withdrawing 
I the Guards and Poles] and to order a grand movement which 
dislocated them for a time, precisely at the instant when he 
had increased the dispersion of the Army of Portugal, by 
; sending a detachment of 12,000 men against Valencia. He 
jwas undoubtedly aware that the English army was cantoned 
jin a fairly concentrated position on the Agueda, the Coa, and 
ithe Mondego. But he had made up his mind — I cannot make 
| out why — that the English were not in a condition to take 
the field : in every dispatch he repeated this statement.' In 
fairness to his master, Marmont should have added that he was 
of the same opinion himself, that Dorsenne shared it, and that 
both of them agreed to treat the Cassandra-like prophecies which 
Thiebault kept sending from Salamanca as ' wild and whirling 

Marmont reached Valladolid, marching ahead of the divisions 
of Clausel and Maucune, on the 11th or 12th of January. He 
found Dorsenne waiting for him, and they proceeded to concert 
measures for the exchange of territory and troops which the 
Emperor had imposed upon them. After dinner on the evening 

See Marmont's letter acknowledging its receipt in his Correspondance, 
iv. pp. 342-3. a Memoir -es, iv. p. 554. 

O 2 


of the 14th arrived Thiebault's definite and startling news that 
Wellington, with at least five divisions in hand, had invested 
Rodrigo on the 8th, and was bringing up a heavy battering- 
train. The siege had already been six days in progress. 

This was very alarming intelligence. The only troops 
actually in hand for the relief of Rodrigo were Thiebault's small 
division at Salamanca, Souham's much larger division about 
La Baneza and Benavente, and Clausel's and Maucune's 
divisions, now approaching Valladolid from the side of Avila. 
The whole did not make much more than 20,000 men, a force I 
obviously insufficient to attack Wellington, if he were in such 
strength as Thiebault reported. Dorsenne at once sent for* 
Roguet's division of the Imperial Guard from Burgos : Mar-, 
mont ordered Bonnet to evacuate the Asturias and come down; 
by the route of Leon to join him : he also directed Brennier to 
come up from the Tagus, and Ferey to hurry his march froni| 
La Mancha. Aides-de-camp were sent to hunt for Foy, whoi 
was known to be on the borders of the Murcian regions, when 
Montbrun had dropped him on his march to Alicante. Mont- 
brun himself, with the rest of his column, was also to turn bad 
as soon as the orders should reach him. 

By this concentration Marmont calculated * that he woulc 
have 32,000 men in line opposite Wellington by January 2( 
or 27th, as Bonnet, Brennier, and Dorsenne's Guards shouk 
have arrived by then. And by February 1 Ferey and Foy ought 
also to be up, and more than 40,000 men would be collected. 
Vain dates ! For Wellington captured Rodrigo on the 19th.i 
seven days before the Marshal and Dorsenne could collect evei 
32,000 men. 

Meanwhile Marmont pushed on for Salamanca, where the 
troops were to concentrate, having with him only the division? 
of Clausel and Maucune. On January 21st he had reachec 
Fuente Sauco, one march north of Salamanca, when he receivec 
the appalling news that Ciudad Rodrigo had been stormed b] 
Wellington two days before. This was a thunderstroke — hi:! 
army was caught not half concentrated, and he was for th< 
moment helpless. He advanced as far as Salamanca, and thei 
picked up Thiebault's division, but even so he had not morj 
1 Mimoires, iv. p. 184. 


that 15,000 men in hand, and dared not, with such a handful, 
march on Rodrigo, to endeavour to recover it before Wellington 
should have restored its fortifications. Bonnet had not yet 
even reached Leon : Ferey and Dorsenne's Guard division had 
not been heard of. As to where Foy and Montbrun might be 
at the moment, it was hardly possible to hazard a guess. The 
only troops that could be relied upon to appear within the 
jnext few days were the divisions of Souham and Brennier. 
'Even with their help the army would not exceed 26,000 or 
28,000 men. 

Meanwhile Wellington, with seven divisions now in hand, for 
I he had brought up both the 5th and the 7th to the front, was 
living on the Agueda, covering the repairs of Ciudad Rodrigo. 
Marmont had at first thought that, elated by his recent success, 
the British general might push his advance towards Salamanca. 
He made no signs of doing so : all his troops remained concen- 
trated on the Portuguese frontier, ready to protect the rebuild- 
ing of Rodrigo. Here, on the day after the storm, all the 
'trenches were filled in, and the debris on the breaches removed. 
Twelve hundred men were then turned to the task of mending 
the breaches, which were at first built up with fascines and 
earth only, so as to make them ready within a few days to 
resist a coup-de-main. In a very short time they were more or 
|less in a state of defence, and on February 15th Castafios 
'produced a brigade of Spanish infantry to form the new garrison 
iof the place. The work was much retarded by the weather. 
Throughout the time of the siege it had been bitterly cold but 
(very dry : but on the 28th the wind shifted to the west, and 
'for the nine days following there was incessant and torrential 
Irain, which was very detrimental to the work. It had, however, 
ithe compensating advantage of preventing Marmont from 
making any advance from Salamanca. Every river in Leon 
was over its banks, every ford impassable, the roads became 
practically useless. When, therefore, on February 2nd 1 the 
Agueda rose to such a height that Wellington's trestle-bridge 
was swept away, and the stone town-bridge of Rodrigo was 
two feet under water, so that the divisions cantoned on the 

Napier says Jan. 29. But Jones, then employed in repairing Rodrigo, 
gives Feb. 2 in his diary of the work. 


Portuguese frontier were cut off from the half -repaired fortress, 
there was no pressing danger from the French, who were quite 
unable to move forward. 

Marmont, as we have seen, had reached Fuente Sauco on 
January 21st, and Salamanca on January 22nd. On the 
following day Souham, coming in from the direction of 
Zamora, appeared at Matilla, half way between Salamanca 
and Ciudad Rodrigo, so that he was in touch with his 
chief and ready to act as his advanced guard. But no other 
troops had come up, and on the 24th the Marshal received a hasty 
note from Dorsenne, saying that the division of the Young 
Guard from Burgos would not reach the Tormes till February 2 \ 
With only four divisions at his disposition (Clausel, Maucune, 
Thiebault, Souham) Marmont dared not yet move forward, 
since he knew that Wellington had at least six in hand, and he 
shrank from committing himself to decisive action with little 
more than 20,000 men assembled. On the 28th Dorsenne sent 
in a still more disheartening dispatch than his last : he had 
now ordered Roguet's Guards, who had got as far forward as 
Medina del Campo, to return to Burgos 2 . The reasons given 
were that Mina had just inflicted a severe blow on General Abbe, 
the commanding officer in Navarre, by beating him near 
Pampeluna with a loss of 400 men, that the Conde de Montijo, 
from Aragon, had laid siege to Soria, and was pressing its 
garrison hard, and that another assembly of guerrillero bands 
had attacked Aranda del Duero, and would take it, if it were not 
succoured in a few days. ' I therefore trust that your excellency 
will approve of my having called back Roguet's division, its 
artillery, and Laferriere's horse, to use them for a guerre d\ 
outrance against the guerrillas.' Nothing serious — he added — | 
would follow, as all reports agreed that Wellington was sitting 
tight near Ciudad Rodrigo, and would make no advance toward 

No succours whatever, therefore, were to be expected from 
the Army of the North : Bonnet had only just recrossed the 
Cantabrian mountains, much incommoded by the bad weathei, 
in the passes, and Foy and Montbrun were only expected in the 

1 Dorsenne to Marmont, from Valladolid, Feb. 24. 

2 Same to same, from Valladolid, Feb. 27. 


neighbourhood of Toledo early in February. Therefore Mar- 
mont abandoned all hope of attacking Wellington before Ciudad 
Rodrigo should be in a state of defence. The desperately rainy 
weather of January 28th to February Gth was no doubt the last 
decisive fact in making the Marshal give up the game. Before 
the rain had ceased falling, he concluded that all chance of 
a successful offensive move was gone, for he returned from 
Salamanca to Valladolid on February 5th. 

On February 6th he wrote to Berthier * that he had ordered 
Montbrun and Foy, on their return from the Alicante expedition, 
to remain behind in the valley of the Tagus, and not to come 
on to Salamanca. His reason for abandoning all idea of a general 
concentration against Wellington in the kingdom of Leon, 
was that he was convinced that the next move of the British 
general would be to make a dash at Badajoz, and that he 
wished to have a considerable force ready in the direction of 
Almaraz and Talavera, with which he could succour the Army 
of the South, when it should be compelled to march, as in 1811, 
to relieve that fortress. His forecast of Wellington's probable 
scheme of operations was perfectly correct, and his idea that 
the best way to foil it would be to hold a large portion of his 
army in the valley of the Tagus was correct also. But he was 
not to be permitted to carry out his own plan : the orders from 
Paris, which he so much dreaded, once more intervened to 
prescribe for him a very different policy 2 . 

Wellington during the critical days from January 20th to 

1 Marmont to Berthier, Valladolid, Feb. 6. Not in Marmont's Memoires, 
but printed in King Joseph's Correspondance, viii. p. 301. 

2 I must confess that all Napier's comment on Marmont's doings (vol. iv. 
pp. 94-5) seems to me to be vitiated by a wish to vindicate Napoleon at all 
costs, and to throw all possible blame on his lieutenant. His statements 
contain what I cannot but call a suggestio falsi, when he says that ' Bonnet 
quitted the Asturias, Montbrun hastened back from Valencia, Dorsenne 
sent a detachment in aid, and on Jan. 25 six divisions of infantry and one 
of cavalry, 45,000 men in all, were assembled at Salamanca, from whence to 
Ciudad is only four marches.' This misses the facts that (1) Marmont had 
only four divisions (Souham, Clausel, Maucune, and the weak division of 
Thiebault) ; (2) that Bonnet had not arrived, nor could for some days ; 
(3) that Dorsenne sent nothing, and on Jan. 27 announced that nothing 
would be forthcoming ; (4) that Montbrun (who was at Alicante on Jan. 16) 
was still far away on the borders of Murcia. With 22,000 men only in hand 
Marmont was naturally cautious. 


February 6th was naturally anxious. He knew that Marmont 
would concentrate against him, but he hoped (as indeed he was 
justified in doing) that the concentration would be slow and 
imperfect, and that the Marshal would find himself too weak 
to advance from Salamanca. His anxiety was made somewhat 
greater than it need have been, by a false report that Foy and 
Montbrun were already returned from the Alicante expedition — 
he was told that both had got back to Toledo by the beginning 
of January 1 — a most mischievous piece of false news. An 
equally groundless rumour informed him that Bonnet had left 
the Asturias, many days before his departure actually took 
place. On January 21 he wrote to Lord Liverpool that Bonnet 
had passed Benavente on his way to Salamanca, and that ' the 
whole of what had gone eastward ' [i. e. Foy and Montbrun] 
was reported to be coming up from the Tagus to Valladolid, so 
that in a few days Marmont might possibly have 50,000 men in 
hand 2 . To make himself strong against such a concentration 
he ordered Hill, on January 22, to bring up three brigades of 
the 2nd Division to Castello Branco, with which he might join 
the main army at a few days' notice 3 . At the same time he 
directed General Abadia to send a force to occupy the Asturias, 
which must be empty since Bonnet had evacuated it. It was not 
till some days later that he got the reassuring, and correct, news 
that Foy and Montbrun, instead of being already at the front in 
Castile, were not even expected at Toledo till January 29th, and 
that Bonnet had started late, and was only at La Baneza when 
February had already begun. But, by the time that he had 
received this information, it had already become evident that 
Marmont was not about to take the offensive, and Ciudad 
Rodrigo was already in a condition to resist a coup-de-main; 
while, since the whole siege-train of the Army of Portugal had 

1 See Dispatches, viii. p. 547. 

2 I fancy that Wellington's erroneous statement that Marmont had six 
divisions collected at Salamanca on the 23rd-24th [misprinted by Gurwood, 
Dispatches, viii. p. 577, as ' the 6th Division ! '] was Napier's source for 
stating that such a force was assembled, which it certainly was not, 
Wellington reckoned that Marmont had Souham, Clausel, Maucune, 
Thiebault, and two divisions from the East, which last had not really 
come up — and never were to do so. 

3 Wellington to Hill, Jan. 22, Dispatches, viii. p. 566. 


been captured therein, it was certain that the Marshal could 
not come up provided with the artillery required for a regular 

By February 12th the real state of affairs became clear, ' the 
enemy has few troops left at Salamanca and in the towns on the 
Tormes, and it appears that Marshal Marmont has cantoned 
the right of his army on the Douro, at Zamora and Toro, the 
centre in the province of Avila, while one division (the 6th) has 
returned to Talavera and the valley of the Tagus.' This was 
nearly correct : Marmont, on February 6th, had defined his 
position as follows — two divisions (those just returned from 
the Alicante expedition) in the valley of the Tagus ; one, the 
6th (Brennier), at Monbeltran, in one of the passes leading from 
| the Tagus to the Douro valley ; one (Clausel) at Avila ; three 
on the Douro and the Esla (Zamora, Toro, Benavente) with 
a strong advanced guard at Salamanca. The heavy detach- 
ment towards the Tagus, as he explained, was to provide for 
the probable necessity of succouring Badajoz, to which Welling- 
ton was certain to turn his attention ere long. 

Marmont was perfectly right in his surmise. Ciudad Rodrigo 

had hardly been in his hands for five days, when Wellington 

began to issue orders presupposing an attack on Badajoz. On 

January 25th Alexander Dickson was directed to send the 24-lb. 

! shot and reserve powder remaining at the artillery base at 

1 Villa da Ponte to be embarked on the Douro for Oporto, where 

, they were to be placed on ship-board \ Next day it was 

ordered that sixteen howitzers of the siege-train should start 

i from Almeida overland for the Alemtejo, each drawn by eight 

bullocks, while twenty 24-pounders were to be shipped down 

S the Douro from Barca de Alva to Oporto, and sent round from 

' thence to Setubal, the seaport nearest to Elvas 2 . On the 28th 

Dickson himself was ordered to start at once for Setubal, in 

order that he might be ready to receive each consignment on its 

i arrival, and to make arrangements for its transport to Elvas 3 , 

while a dispatch was sent to Hill 4 definitely stating that, if all 

1 Dickson Papers, ii. p. 571. 

2 Wellington, Dispatches, viii. pp. 568-9. 

3 Dickso?i Papers, ii. p. 576. 

4 Wellington to Hill, Dispatches, viii. p. 571. 


went well, the siege of Badajoz was to begin in the second week 
of March. 

These plans were drawn up long before it was clear that the 
army might not have to fight Marmont on the Agueda, for the 
defence of Ciudad Rodrigo. ' If they should move this way, 
I hope to give a good account of them,' Wellington wrote to 
Douglas (the British officer attached to the Army of Galicia) 1 : 
but he judged it more likely that no such advance would be 
made. i I think it probable that when Marmont shall have 
heard of our success, he will not move at all 2 . 5 Meanwhile 
there was no need to march the army southward for some time, 
since the artillery and stores would take many weeks on their 
land or water voyage, when roads were bad and the sea vexed 
with winter storms. So long as seven divisions were cantoned 
behind the Agueda and Coa, Marmont could have no certain 
knowledge that the attack on Badajoz was contemplated, 
whatever he might suspect. Therefore no transference south- 
ward of the divisions behind the Agueda was begun till 
February 19th. But Wellington, with an eye on Marmont's 
future movements, contemplated a raid by Hill on the bridge 
of Almaraz, the nearest and best passage which the French 
possessed on the Tagus. If it could be broken by a flying 
column, any succours from the Army of Portugal to the Armyi 
of the South would have to take a much longer route and waste ! 
much time 3 . The project was abandoned, on Hill's report that 
he doubted of its practicability, since a successful coup-de-main 
on one of the bridge-head forts might not secure the actual; 
destruction of the boats, which the French might withdraw toj 
the farther side of the river, and relay at their leisure 4 . But, 
as we shall see, the scheme was postponed and not entirely 
rejected : in May it was carried out with complete success. 

While Wellington was awaiting the news that his siege 
artillery was well forward on the way to Elvas, Marmont had 
been undergoing one of his periodical lectures from Paris.! 
A dispatch sent to him by Berthier on January 23, and received 

1 Wellington to Sir Howard Douglas, Jan. 22, Dispatches, viii. p. 568. 

2 Wellington to Hill, Dispatches, viii. p. 567, same day as last. 

3 Wellington to Hill, Jan. 28, Dispatches, viii. pp. 571-2 and 586-7. 
* Wellington to Hill, Feb. 12, Dispatches, viii. p. 603. 


at Valladolid on February 6th — fourteen days only having been 
occupied by its travels — had of course no reference to Wellington 
or Ciudad Rodrigo, the news of the investment of that fortress 
having only reached Paris on January 27th. It was mainly 
composed of censures on Montbrun's Alicante expedition, which 
Napoleon considered to have been undertaken with too large 
a force — ' he had ordered a flying column to be sent against 
Valencia, a whole army corps had marched.' But the paragraph 
in it which filled Marmont with dismay was one ordering him 
to make over at once 6,000 men to the Army of the North, 
whose numbers the Emperor considered to be running too low, 
now that the two Guard divisions had been directed to return 
to France. 

' Twenty-four hours after the receipt of this dispatch you 
will start off on the march one of your divisions, with its 
divisional artillery, and its exact composition as it stands at 
the moment of the arrival of this order, and will send it to 
Burgos, to form part of the Army of the North. His Majesty 
forbids you to change any general belonging to this division, 
or to make any alterations in it. In return you will receive 
three provisional regiments of detachments, about 5,000 men, 
whom you may draft into your battalions. They are to start 
from Burgos the day that the division which you are ordered 
to send arrives there. All the Guards are under orders for 
France, and can only start when your division has reached 
that place. . . . The Army of the North will then consist of three 
divisions : (1) that which you are sending off ; (2) Caffarelli's 
division (due at Pampeluna from Aragon) ; (3) a third division 
which General Dorsenne will organize from the 34th Leger, the 
113th and 130th of the line and the Swiss battalions. ... By 
this arrangement the Army of the North will be in a position 
to aid you with two divisions if the English should march 
against you V 

1 The ' third division ' practically represented Thiebault's old division 
of the Army of the North, which had long held the Salamanca district. 
This division was to be deprived of its Polish regiment (recalled to France 
with all other Poles) and to be given instead the 130th, then at Santander. 
But the 130th really belonged to the Army of Portugal (Sarrut's division), 
though separated from it at the moment. So Marmont was being deprived 
of one regiment more. 


Along with this dispatch arrived another from Dorsenne \ 
clamouring for the division which was to be given him — he had 
already got the notice that he was to receive it, as he lay nearer 
to France than Marmont. He promised that the three pro- 
visional regiments should be sent off, as the Emperor directed, 
the moment that the ceded division should reach him. The 
Duke of Ragusa could not refuse to obey such peremptory 
orders from his master, and ordered Bonnet's division, from 
Benavente and Leon, to march on Burgos. His letter acknow- 
ledging the receipt of the Emperor's dispatch was plaintive. 
' I am informed that, according to the new arrangement, the 
Army of the North will be in a position to help me with two 
divisions if I am attacked. I doubt whether His Majesty's 
intentions on this point will be carried out, and in no wise 
expect it. I believe that I am justified in fearing that any 
troops sent me will have to be long waited for, and will be an 
insignificant force when they do appear. Not to speak of the 
slowness inevitable in all joint operations, it takes so long in 
Spain to get dispatches through, and to collect troops, that 
I doubt whether I shall obtain any help at the critical moment. 
. . . The net result of all is that I am left much weaker in 

Marmont might have added that the three provisional 
regiments, which he was to receive in return for Bonnet's 
division and the 130th Line, were no real reinforcement, but his 
own drafts, long due to arrive at the front, but detained by 
Dorsenne in Biscay and Old Castile to garrison small posts 
and keep open communications. And he was not destined to 
receive them as had been promised : Dorsenne wrote on 
February 24 apologizing for not forwarding them at once : they 
were guarding the roads between Irun and Vittoria, and could 
not be spared till other troops had been moved into their 
scattered garrisons to relieve them. 

On January 27th the news of the advance of Wellington 
against Ciudad Rodrigo had at last reached Paris — eight days 
after the fortress had fallen. It caused the issue of new orders 
by the Emperor, all exquisitely inappropriate when they reached 
Marmont's hands on February 10th. The Marshal had been 
1 Dorsenne to Marmont, from Unas, Feb. 5. 


contemplating the tiresome results of the storm of the 
fortress for nearly three weeks, but Napoleon's orders presup- 
posed much spare time before Rodrigo would be in any danger : 
Dorsenne is to stop the march of the Guards towards France, 
and to bring up all the forces he can to help the Army of 
Portugal : Montbrun will be back at Madrid by January 18 
[on which day he was really in the middle of the kingdom of 
Murcia], and at the front in Leon before February 1st. After 
his arrival the Army of Portugal will be able to take up its 
definitive line of action. Finally, there is a stab at Marmont, 
1 the English apparently have advanced in order to make 
a diversion to hamper the siege of Valencia ; they only did so 
because they had got information of the great strength of 
the detachment which the Army of Portugal made in that 
direction 1 .' 

The Marshal could only reply by saying that the orders were 
all out of date, that he had (as directed) given up Bonnet's 
division to the Army of the North, and that, Ciudad Rodrigo 
having fallen far earlier than any one had expected, and long 
before any sufficient relieving force could be collected, he had 
been unable to save it, and had now cantoned his army (minus 
Bonnet) with four divisions in the valley of the Douro and 
three in the valley of the Tagus, in expectation of an approach- 
ing move on the part of Wellington towards Badajoz. 

These dispositions had not long been completed when another 
dispatch arrived from Paris, dated February 11th, in which 
the Emperor censured once more all his lieutenant's actions, 
and laid down for him a new strategical policy from which he 
was forbidden to swerve. 

4 The Emperor regrets that when you had the division of 
Souham and three others united [i. e. on January 23] you did 
not move on Salamanca, to make out what was going on. 
That would have given the English much to think about, and 
might have been useful to Ciudad Rodrigo. The way to help 
the army under the present circumstances is to place its 
head -quarters at Salamanca, and concentrate your force there, 
detaching one division to the Tagus valley and also reoccupying 
the Asturias. [This concentration] will oblige the enemy to 
1 Napoleon to Berthier, Jan. 27. 


remain about Almeida and in the North, for fear of an invasion 
of Portugal. You might even march on Rodrigo, and, if you 
have the necessary siege artillery, capture the place — your 
honour is bound up with it. If want of the artillery or of food 
renders it necessary to put off such an operation, you could at 
least make an incursion into Portugal, and advance towards the 
Douro and Almeida. This menace would keep the enemy 
" contained "... . Your posture should be offensive, with Sala- 
manca as base and Almeida as objective : as long as the 
English know that you are in strength at Salamanca they will 
not budge : but if you retire to Valladolid yourself, and scatter 
divisions to the rear, and above all if you have not got your 
cavalry effective by the time that the rainy season ends, you 
will expose all the north of Spain to misfortunes. 

' It is indispensable to reoccupy the Asturias, because more 
troops are needed to hold the edge of the plain as far as Biscay 
than to keep down that province. Since the English are 
divided into two corps, one in the South and the other opposite 
you, they cannot be in heavy strength : you ought to outnumber 
them greatly. ... I suppose that you consider the English mad, 
for you believe them capable of marching against Badajoz when 
you are at Salamanca, i. e. of allowing you to march to Lisbon 
before they can get back. They will only go southward if you, 
by your ill-devised schemes, keep two or three divisions de- 
tached on the Tagus : that reassures them, and tells them that 
you have no offensive projects against them. 

4 To recapitulate, the Emperor's intentions are that you 
should stop at Salamanca, that you should reoccupy the 
Asturias, that your army should base itself on Salamanca, and 
that from thence you should threaten the English.' 

It may seem profane to the worshippers of the Emperor to 
say that this dispatch was purely wrong-headed, and argued 
a complete misconception of the situation. But it is impossible 
to pass any other verdict on it. Marmont, since Bonnet's 
division had been stolen from him, had seven divisions left, or 
about 44,000 men effective, including cavalry and artillery. 
The Emperor tells him to keep one division on the Tagus, to 
send a second to occupy the Asturias. This leaves him about 
34,000 net to concentrate at Salamanca. With this force he is 


to attempt to besiege Rodrigo, or at least to execute a raid as 
far as Almeida and the Douro. 4 The English are divided and 
so must be much numerically inferior to you.' But, as a matter 
of fact, the only British detachment that was not under Welling- 
ton's hand at the moment was Hill's 2nd Division, and he had 
just brought that up to Castello Branco, and would have had 
it with him in five days, if Marmont had advanced from Sala- 
manca. The Marshal would have seen 55,000 men falling upon 
his 34,000 if he had moved on any day before the 20th of 
February, and Wellington was ' spoiling for a fight,' or, in his 
own quiet phraseology, ' if the French move this way, I hope 
to give a good account of them V Supposing Marmont had, 
by some evil inspiration, done what the Emperor had wished 
i him to do before the orders came, he would have been crushed 
by almost double numbers somewhere in the neighbourhood of 
i Rodrigo or Almeida. The battle of Salamanca would have been 
fought six months too soon. 
This is the crucial objection to Napoleon's main thesis : he 
i underrated Wellington's numbers and his readiness to give 
battle. As to details we may observe (1) that there was no 
siege-train to batter Rodrigo, because the whole of the heavy 
; guns of the Army of Portugal had been captured in that 
I fortress. (2) That Wellington was ' mad ' enough to march 
l upon Badajoz with his whole army, precisely because he knew 
! that, even if Marmont should invade Portugal, he could never 
i get to Lisbon. He realized, as the Emperor did not, that an 
; army of five or six divisions could not march on Lisbon in the 
i casual fashion recommended in this dispatch, because it would 
I starve by the way. Central Portugal, still suffering from the 
j blight of Massena's invasion, could not have sustained 30,000 
men marching in a mass and trying to live upon the country 
in the usual French style. And Marmont, as his adversary well 
knew, had neither great magazines at his base, nor the immense 
transport train which would have permitted them to be utilized. 
The best proof of the impracticability of Napoleon's scheme 
was that Marmont endeavoured to carry it out in April, when 
nothing lay in front of him but Portuguese militia, and failed to 
penetrate more than a few marches into the land, because he 
1 Wellington to Douglas, Dispatches, viii. p. 568. 


could not feed his army, and therefore could not keep it con- 

The Marshal knew long beforehand that this plan was hope- 
less. He wrote to Berthier from Valladolid on February 26th 
as follows : 

4 Your Highness informs me that if my army is united at 
Salamanca the English would be " mad " to move into Estrema- 
dura, leaving me behind them, and free to advance on Lisbon. 
But they tried this precise combination in May 1811, though 
all my army was then quite close to Salamanca, and though the 
Army of the North was then twice as strong as it is to-day, 
and though the season was then later and allowed us to find 
provender for our horses, and though we were then in possession 
of Ciudad Rodrigo. They considered at that time that we could 
not undertake such an operation [as a march on Lisbon], and 
were perfectly right. Will they think that it is practicable 
to-day, when all the conditions which I have just cited are 
changed to our disadvantage, and when they know that a great 
body of troops has returned to France ? . . . Consequently no 
movement on this side can help Badajoz. The only possible 
course is to take measures directly bearing on that place, if 
we are to bring pressure upon the enemy and hope to attain our 
end. The Emperor seems to ignore the food question. This 
is the important problem ; and if it could be ended by the 
formation of base-magazines, his orders could be executed with 
punctuality and precision. But we are far from such a position 
— by no fault of mine. . . . When transferred to the North in 
January, I found not a grain of wheat in the magazines, not 
a sou in the treasury, unpaid debts everywhere. As the neces- 
sary result of the absurd system of administration adopted here, 
there was in existence a famine — real or artificial — whose 
severity was difficult to realize. We could only get food for 
daily consumption in our cantonments by using armed force : 
there is a long distance between this state of affairs and the 
formation of magazines which would allow us to move the army 
freely. . . . The English army is always concentrated and can 
always be moved, because it has an adequate supply of money 
and transport. Seven or eight thousand pack-mules bring up 
its daily food — hay for its cavalry on the banks of the Coa and 

^l/Ltu^tM'LsaJy ^l/Lcuriruriit, , UJu k c c, :Jv a a uJ a 



Agueda has actually been sent out from England \ His 
Majesty may judge from this fact the comparison between their 
means and ours — we have not four days' food in any of our 
magazines, we have no transport, we cannot draw requisitions 
from the most wretched village without sending thither a 
foraging party 200 strong : to live from day to day we have to 
scatter detachments to vast distances, and always to be on the 
move. ... It is possible that His Majesty may be dissatisfied 
with my arguments, but I am bound to say that I cannot carry 
out the orders sent me without bringing about a disaster ere 
long. If His Majesty thinks otherwise, I must request to be 
superseded — a request not made for the first time : if I am 
given a successor the command will of course be placed in 
better hands 2 .' 

This was an admirable summary of the whole situation in 
Spain, and might have caused the Emperor to change his 
policy, if he had not by this time so hardened himself in his 
false conceptions as to be past conviction. As Marmont com- 
plains, his master had now built up for himself an imaginary 
picture of the state of affairs in the Peninsula, and argued as 
if the situation was what he wished it to be, not what it actually 
was. ' II suppose vrai tout ce qu'il voudrait trouver existant V 
A subsequent letter from Paris, dated February 21st and 
; received about March 2nd, contained one small amelioration of 
| Marmont's lot — he was told that he might take back Bonnet's 
i division, and not cede it to Dorsenne, on condition that he sent 
it at once to occupy the Asturias. But it then proceeded to lay 
| down in the harshest terms the condemnation of the Marshal's 
! strategy : 

4 The Emperor charges me to repeat to you that you worry 
too much about matters with which you have no concern. 
Your mission was to protect Almeida and Rodrigo — and you 
have let them fall. You are told to maintain and administer 

An exaggeration, but hay was actually brought to Lisbon and Coimbra, 
and used for the English cavalry brigades, which had been sent to the rear 
and cantoned on the Lower Mondego. 

2 Marmont to Berthier, Valladolid, Feb. 26. Marmont's Memoires, 
iv. pp. 344-5. 

Marmont's ' Observations on the Imperial Correspondence of Feb. 1812,' 
Mtmoires, iv. p. 512. 

OMAN, v r> 


the North, and you abandon the Asturias — the only point from 
which it can be dominated and contained. You are getting into 
a state of alarm because Lord Wellington sends a division or 
two towards Badajoz. Now Badajoz is a very strong fortress, 
and the Duke of Dalmatia has 80,000 men, and can draw help 
from Marshal Suchet. If Wellington were to march on Badajoz 
[he had done so the day before this letter was written] you have 
a sure, prompt, and triumphant means of bringing him back — 
that of marching on Rodrigo and Almeida.' 

Marmont replied, with a suppressed rage that can be read 
between the lines even more clearly than in his earlier letters, 
4 Since the Emperor attributes to me the fall of Almeida, which 
was given up before I had actually taken over the command 
of this army \ I cannot see what I can do to shelter myself 
from censures at large : . . . I am accused of being the cause of 
the capture of Ciudad Rodrigo : it fell because it had an 
insufficient garrison of inferior quality and a bad commandant. 
Dorsenne was neither watchful nor prescient. Was it for me 
to take care of a place not in my command, and separated from 
me by a chain of mountains, and by the desert that had been 
made by the six months' sojourn of the Army of Portugal in the 
valley of the Tagus ? . . . I am blamed for having cantoned 
myself in the valley of the Tagus after repulsing Lord Welling- 
ton beyond the Coa [at the time of El Bodon], but this was the 
result of the imperative orders of the Emperor, who assigned 
me no other territory than the Tagus valley. Rodrigo was 
occupied by troops of the Army of the North. ... I have 
ordered General Bonnet to reoccupy the Asturias at once, and 
quite see the importance of the occupying of that province. 
I am told that the Emperor thinks that I busy myself too much i 
about the interests of others, and not enough about my own. 
I had considered that one of my duties (and one of the most 
difficult of them) was to assist the Army of the South, and that 
duty was formally imposed on me in some twenty dispatches, 
and specially indicated by the order which bade me leave three ; 
divisions in the valley of the Tagus. To-day I am informed that 
I am relieved of that duty, and my position becomes simpler 

1 To be exact, it was on May 10 that Marmont took over the command 
from Massena, and Almeida was evacuated by Brennier that same night. 


and better ! But if the Emperor relies with confidence on the 
effect which demonstrations in the North will produce on the 
mind of Wellington, I must dare to express my contrary 
opinion. Lord Wellington is quite aware that I have no 
magazines, and is acquainted with the immensely difficult 
physical character of the country, and its complete lack of food 
resources at this season. He knows that my army is not in 
a position to cross the Coa, even if no one opposes me, and that 
if we did so we should have to turn back at the end of four days, 
unable to carry on the campaign, and with our horses all starved 
to death V 

This and much more to the same effect had apparently some 
effect on the mind of the Emperor. But the result was confusing 
when formulated on paper. Berthier replied on March 12 : 

4 Your letters of February 27 and 28 and March 2 have been 
laid before the Emperor. His Majesty thinks that not only 
must you concentrate at Salamanca, but that you must throw 
a bridge across the Agueda, so that, if the enemy leaves less 
than five divisions north of the Tagus, you may be able to 
advance to the Coa, against Almeida, and ravage all northern 
Portugal. If Badajoz is captured by two divisions of the enemy 
its loss will not be imputed to you, the entire responsibility will 
fall on the Army of the South. If the enemy leaves only two, 
three, or even four divisions north of the Tagus, the Army of 
Portugal will be to blame if it does not at once march against 
the hostile force before it, invest Almeida, ravage all northern 
Portugal, and push detachments as far as the Mondego. Its 
role is simply to " contain " six British divisions, or at least five : 
it must take the offensive in the North, or, if the enemy has 
taken the initiative, or other circumstances necessitate it, must 
dispatch to the Tagus, by Almaraz, the same number of 
divisions that Lord Wellington shall have dispatched to conduct 
the siege of Badajoz.' 

This double-edged document reached Salamanca on March 27, 
eleven days after Wellington had invested Badajoz. The whole 
allied field army had marched for Estremadura in the last days 
of February, and not a single British division remained north 

I extract these various paragraphs from Marmont's vast dispatch of 
March 2, omitting much more that is interesting and apposite. 



of the Tagus. In accordance with the Emperor's dispatches oi 
February 11th and of February 18th, Marmont had already 
concentrated the bulk of his resources at Salamanca, drawing 
in everything except Bonnet (destined for the Asturias), Souham, 
who was left on the Esla to face the Army of Galicia, and the 
equivalent of another division distributed as garrisons in 
Astorga, Leon, Palencia, Zamora, and Valladolid. With five 
divisions in hand, or just coming up, he was on the move, as 
the Emperor had directed, to threaten Rodrigo and Almeida 
and invade northern Portugal. 

The Paris letter of March 12, quoted above, suddenly imposed 
on Marmont the choice between continuing the attack on 
Portugal, to which he was committed, or of leading his whole 
army by Almaraz to Badajoz — it must be the whole army, 
since he was told to send just as many divisions southward 
as Wellington should have moved in that direction, and every 
one of the seven units of the allied army had gone off. 

Since Badajoz was stormed on April 6th, only ten days after 
Marmont received on March 27 the Emperor's dispatch oi 
March 12, it is clear that he never could have arrived in time 
to help the fortress. In June 1811 he had accomplished 
similar movement at a better season of the year, and when 
some time had been allowed for preparation, in fifteen days, but 
only by making forced marches of the most exhausting sort. It 
could not have been done in so short a time in March or April, 
when the crops were not ripe, the rivers were full, and the roads 
were far worse than at midsummer. Moreover (as we shal 
presently see) Wellington had placed a large containing force 
at Merida, half-way between Almaraz and Badajoz, which 
Marmont would have had to drive in — at much expense oj 

The Marshal's perplexity on receiving the dispatch that came 
in upon March 27 was extreme. ' The instructions just received,' 
he wrote to Berthier, ' are wholly contradictory to those of 
February 18 and February 21, imperative orders which forced 
me, against my personal conviction, to abandon my own plan, 
and to make it impossible to do what I regarded as suitable t 
the interests of the Emperor. The letters of February 18 and 
February 21 told me that his Majesty thought me a meddler i 


matters which did not concern mc : he told me that it was 
unnecessary for mc to worry about Badajoz, " a very strong 
fortress supported by an army of 80,000 men." . . . He gave mc 
formal orders to abandon any idea of marching to succour it, 
and added that if Lord Wellington went thither, he was to be 
left alone, because by advancing to the Agueda I could bring 
him back at once. The letters of the 18th and 21st made it 
quite clear that His Majesty freed me from all responsibility 
for Badajoz, provided I made a demonstration on the Agueda. 
. . . To-day your Highness writes that I am responsible for 
Badajoz, if Lord Wellington undertakes its siege with more than 
two divisions. The concluding paragraph of your letter seems 
to give me permission to succour the place, by bringing up 
troops to the Tagus. So, after imperative orders have wrecked 
my original arrangement, which had prepared and assured an 
effective help for Badajoz, and after all choice of methods has 
been forbidden to me, I am suddenly given an option when it is 
no longer possible to use it. . . . To-day, when my troops from the 
Tagus valley have repassed the mountains, and used up the 
magazines collected there at their departure, when it is impos- 
sible to get from Madrid the means to establish a new magazine 
at Almaraz, my army, if it started from this point [Salamanca], 
would consume every scrap of food that could be procured 
before it could possibly reach Badajoz. . . . The movement was 
practicable when I was in my original position : it is almost 
i impracticable now, considering the season of the year, and the 
probable time-limit of the enemy's operations. . . . After ripe 
reflection on the complicated situation, considering that my 
main task is to hold down the North, and that this task is much 
greater than that of holding the South, taking into consideration 
the news that an English force is said to be landing at Corunna 
(an improbable story, but one that is being repeatedly brought 
me), considering that the Portuguese and Galician troops 
threaten to take the offensive from Braganza, remembering that 
your letters of February 18 and 21 state that Suchet's Army of 
Aragon is reckoned able to reinforce the Army of the South, 
and considering that my dispositions have been made (in spite 
of immense preliminary difficulties) for a fifteen days' march 
on the Agueda, which is already begun, I decide in favour of 


continuing that operation, though I have (as I said before) no 
great confidence in its producing any effective result. 

'Accordingly I am putting the division that came up from 
the Tagus in motion for Plasencia, with orders to spread the 
rumour that it is to rejoin the army by the pass of Perales and 
enter Portugal ; I start from here with three more divisions 
for the Agueda ; ... if I fought on the Tormes I could put 
one more division in line, five in all : the number of seven divi- 
sions of which the Emperor speaks could only be concentrated 
if the Army of the North * could send two divisions to replace 
my own two now on the lines of communications and the Esla.' 

The recapitulation of all this correspondence may seem 
tedious, but it is necessary. When it is followed with care 
I think that one definite fact emerges. Napoleon was directly 
and personally responsible for the fall of Badajoz. Down to 
March 27th Marmont was strictly forbidden to take any pre- 
cautions for the safety of that fortress, and was censured as 
a meddler and an alarmist, for wishing to keep a strong force in 
the valley of the Tagus, ready to march thither. On March 27 
he was suddenly given an option of marching to Estremadura 
with his whole army. It appears to be an option, not a definite 
order, for Berthier's sentence introducing the new scheme is 
alternative — the Army of Portugal is ' to take the offensive in 
the North or, under certain circumstances, to march for Almaraz.' 
But this point need not be pressed, for if taken as a definite 
order it was impracticable : Marmont received it so late that, 
if he had marched for Badajoz with the greatest possible speed, 
he would have reached it some days after the place was stormed. 
The fact that he believed that he would never have got there at 
all, because lack of food would have stopped him on the way, 
is indifferent. The essential point of Napoleon's responsibility 
is that he authorized the march too late, after having most 
stringently forbidden it, in successive letters extending over 
several weeks. 

1 Marmont writes the Army of the Centre, evidently in confusion for the* 
Army of the North. The nearest posts of the Army of the Centre were 
150 miles away from the Esla, while the Army of the North at Burgos was 
much closer. Moreover, the Army of the Centre had not two infantry 
divisions, but only one — d' Armagnac's — and some Juramentado regiments. 



That a march on Badajoz by the whole Army of Portugal (or 
so much of it as was not required to contain the Galicians and 
to occupy Asturias), if it had begun — as Marmont wished — in 
February or early March, would have prevented Wellington 
from taking the fortress, is not certain. A similar march in 
June 1811 had that effect, at the time of the operations on the 
Caya. But Wellington's position was much better in February 
1812 than it had been eight months earlier. This much, how- 
ever, is clear, that such an operation had a possible chance of 
success, while Napoleon's counter-scheme for a demonstration 
on the Agueda and an invasion of the northern Beira had no 
such prospect. The Emperor, for lack of comprehension of 
the local conditions, misconceived its efficacy, as Marmont 
very cogently demonstrated in his letters. Northern Portugal 
was a waste, where the Marshal's army might wander for a few 
days, but was certain to be starved before it was many marches 
from the frontier. Napier, in an elaborate vindication of the 
Emperor, tries to argue that the Marshal might have taken 
Rodrigo by escalade without a battering-train, have assailed 
Almeida in similar fashion, have menaced Oporto and occupied 
Coimbra 1 . He deliberately ignores one essential condition of the 
war, viz. that because of the French system of ' living on the 
country,' Marmont had no magazines, and no transport sufficient 
to enable his army to conduct a long offensive campaign in 
a devastated and hostile land. His paragraphs are mere 
rhetoric of the most unfair kind. For example, he says, ' Wel- 
lington with 18,000 men 2 escaladed Badajoz, a powerful fortress 
defended by an excellent governor and 5,000 French veterans : 
Marmont with 28,000 men would not attempt to escalade 
Rodrigo, although its breaches were scarcely healed and its 
garrison disaffected.' This statement omits the essential details 
that Wellington had a large siege-train, had opened three broad 
breaches in the walls of Badajoz, and, while the enemy was 
fully occupied in defending them, escaladed distant points of 
the enceinte with success. Marmont had no siege-train, and 
therefore could have made no breaches ; he would have had to 
cope with an undistracted garrison, holding ramparts everywhere 

1 See chapter vii of book iv, Peninsular War, iv. pp. 138-40. 

2 Why omit the 30,000 men of Graham and Hill ? 


intact. Moreover, Ciudad Rodrigo and its outworks form 
a compact fortress, of not half the circumference of Badajoz 
and its dependencies. If Ney and Massena, with an adequate 
siege apparatus, treated Rodrigo with respect in 1810, and 
proceeded against it by regular operations, Marmont would 
have been entirely unjustified in trying the desperate method | 
of escalade in 1812. The fortifications, as Napier grudgingly 
admits, were ' healed ' : an escalade against Carlos de Espana's j 
garrison would certainly have met the same fate as Suchet's j 
assault on Saguntum, a much weaker and unfinished stronghold. | 
But it is unnecessary to follow into detail Napier's controversial I 
statements, which are all part of a wrong-headed scheme to i 
prove Napoleon infallible on all occasions and at all costs. 

The governing facts cannot be disputed : Marmont in I 
February placed three divisions on the Tagus, which were to 
form the advanced guard of an army that was to march to the ! 
relief of Badajoz, whose siege he foresaw. Napoleon told him 
not to concern himself about Badajoz, and compelled him to | 
concentrate his army about Salamanca. He instructed him ! 
that the proper reply to an attack on Badajoz by Wellington 
was an invasion of northern Portugal, and gave him elaborate 
instructions concerning it. Marmont reluctantly obeyed, and j 
was starting on such an expedition when he was suddenly told I 
that he might move on Badajoz. But he only received this i 
permission ten days before that fortress was stormed : it was 
therefore useless. The Emperor must take the responsibility. | 



In narrating the troubles of the unlucky Duke of Ragusa, 
engaged in fruitless strategical controversy with his master, we 
have been carried far into the month of March 1812. It is 
necessary to return to February 20th in order to take up the 
story of Wellington's march to Estremadura. We have seen 
that he commenced his artillery preparations in January, by 
sending Alexander Dickson to Setubal, and dispatching a large 
part of his siege-train southward, partly by sea, partly across 
the difficult mountain roads of the Beira. 

The Anglo-Portuguese infantry and cavalry, however, were 
not moved till the guns were far on their way. It was Welling- 
ton's intention to show a large army on the frontier of Leon 
till the last possible moment. He himself kept his old head- 
quarters at Freneda, near Fuentes de Onoro, till March 5th, in 
order that Marmont might be led to persist in the belief 
that his attention was still concentrated on the North. But, 
starting from February 19th, his divisions, one by one, had made 
their unostentatious departure for the South : on the day when 
he himself followed them only one division (the 5th) and one 
cavalry brigade (V. Alten's) still remained behind the Agueda. 
The rest were at various stages on their way to Elvas. Most of 
the divisions marched by the route Sabugal, Castello Branco, 
Villa Velha, Niza. But the 1st Division went by Abrantes, in 
order to pick up there its clothing for the new year, which had 
been brought up the Tagus in boats from Lisbon to that point. 
Some of the cavalry and the two independent Portuguese 
brigades of Pack and Bradford, whose winter cantonments had 
been rather to the rear, had separate routes of their own, 
through places so far west as Thomar 1 and Coimbra. The three 

This was the case with G. Anson's brigade and Bradford's Portuguese 
infantry. Pack went by Coimbra, Slade's cavalry brigade by Covilhao, 
and the horse artillery of Bull and McDonald with it. 

218 THE SIEGE OF BADAJOZ [March 16§ 

brigades of the 2nd Division, under Hill, which had been! 
brought up to Castello Branco at the beginning of January,) 
were at the head of the marching army, and reached Portalegre, I 
via Villa Velha, long before the rest of the troops were across j 
the Tagus. Indeed, the first of them (Ashworth's Portuguese)) 
started as early as February 2nd, and was at Castello de Vide,! 
near Elvas, by February 8th, before the troops behind thei 
Agueda had begun to move . 

The lengthy column of infantry which had marched byj 
Castello Branco and the bridge of Villa Velha was cantoned inj 
various places behind Elvas, from Villa Vicosa to Portalegre, by! 
March 8th : the 1st Division, coming in from the Abrantes 
direction, joined them on March 10th, and halted at Monfortej 
and Azumar. Only the 5th Division and the two Portuguese! 
independent brigades were lacking, and of these the two formei 
were expected by the 16th, the latter by the 20th. With the 
exception of the 5th Division the whole of Wellington's fiel< 
army was concentrated near Elvas by the 16th. Only th( 
1st Hussars of the King's German Legion, under Victor Alten, 
had been left to keep the outpost line in front of Ciudad Rodrigo, 
in order that the French vedettes in Leon should not detect 

1 Nothing is rarer, as all students of the Peninsular War know to the: 
cost, than a table of the exact movements of Wellington's army on an; 
march. For this particular movement the whole of the detailed order 
happen to have been preserved in the D' Urban Papers. The starting- place 
of the units were : — 

1st Division — Gallegos, Carpio, Fuentes de Onoro. 

3rd Division — Zamorra (by the Upper Agueda). 

4th Division — San Felices and Sesmiro. 

5th Division — Ciudad Rodrigo. 

6th Division — Albergaria (near Fuente Guinaldo). 

7th Division — Payo (in the Sierra de Gata). 

Light Division — Fuente Guinaldo. 

Bradford's Portuguese — Barba del Puerco. 

Pack's Portuguese — Campillo and Ituero. 

The marches were so arranged that the 7th Division passed through 
Castello Branco on Feb. 26, the 6th Division on Feb. 29, the Light Division 
on March 3, the 4th Division on March 5. All these were up to Portalcgre : 
Villa Vicosa, or Castello de Vide, in touch with Elvas, by March 8. Thej 
1st Division, coming by way of Abrantes, joined on March 10. Pack and 1 
Bradford, who had very circuitous routes, the one by Coimbra, the other 
by Thomar, were not up till several days later (16th). The 5th Division 
did not leave Rodrigo till March 9. 


that all the army of Wellington had disappeared, as they were 
bound to do if only Portuguese or Spanish cavalry showed at 
the front 1 . Counting Hill's corps, now long returned to its old 
post in front of Badajoz, there were now nearly 60,000 troops 
nearing Elvas, viz. of infantry, all the eight old Anglo-Portuguese 
divisions, plus Hamilton's Portuguese division 2 , and Pack's and 
Bradford's independent Portuguese brigades. Of cavalry not 
only were all the old brigades assembled (save Alten's single 
regiment), but two powerful units now showed at the front for 
the first time. These were the newly-landed brigade of German 
heavy dragoons under Bock 3 , which had arrived at Lisbon on 
January 1st, and Le Marchant's brigade of English heavy 
dragoons 4 , which had disembarked in the autumn, but had not 
hitherto been brought up to join the field army. Of Portu- 
guese horse J. Campbell's brigade was also at the front : the 
other Portuguese cavalry brigade, which had served on the 
Leon frontier during the preceding autumn, had been made 
over to General Silveira, and sent north of the Douro. But 
even after deducting this small brigade of 900 sabres, Welling- 
ton's mounted arm was immensely stronger than it had ever 
been before. He had concentrated it on the Alemtejo front, in 
order that he might cope on equal terms with the very powerful 
cavalry of Soult's Army of Andalusia. 

The Commander-in-Chief himself, travelling with his wonted 
speed, left his old head-quarters at Freneda on March 5th, was 
at Castello Branco on the 8th, at Portalegre on the 10th, and 
had reached Elvas, his new head-quarters, on the 12th. Before 
leaving the North he had made elaborate arrangements for the 
conduct of affairs in that quarter. They are contained in two 
memoranda, given the one to Castanos, who was still in com- 
mand both of the Galician and the Estremaduran armies of 
Spain, and the other to Generals Baccelar and Silveira, of whom 
the former was in charge of the Portuguese department of the 

1 The other regiment of V. Alten's brigade (11th Light Dragoons) was on 
March 12 at Ponte de Sor, on its way to the South. 
Which lay at Arronches and Santa Ollaya. 
3 1st and 2nd Heavy Dragoons K.G.L. 
3rd Dragoons, 4th and 5th Dragoon Guards. They had been lying 
during the winter in the direction of Castello Branco. 


North, with head -quarters at Oporto, and the other of the Tras- 
os-Montes, with head-quarters at Villa Real \ 

It was a delicate matter to leave Marmont with nothing save 
the Spaniards and Portuguese in his front. Of the former the j 
available troops were (1) the Army of Galicia, four weak field | 
divisions, making about 15,000 men, of whom only 550 were | 
cavalry, while the artillery counted only five batteries. There | 
were 8,000 garrison and reserve troops in Corunna, Vigo, Ferrol, j 
and other fortified posts to the rear, but these were unavailable 
for service 2 . Abadia still commanded the whole army, under 
the nominal supervision of Castaiios. He had one division j 
(3,000 men under Cabrera) at Puebla Senabria on the Portuguese \ 
frontier, two (9,000 men under Losada and the Conde de 
Belveder) at Villafranca, observing the French garrison of 
Astorga and Souham's division on the Esla, which supported j 
that advanced post, and one (2,500 men under Castanon) on 
the Asturian frontier watching Bonnet. (2) The second Spanish 
force available consisted of that section of the Army of Estrema- j 
dura, which lay north of the Sierra de Gata, viz. Carlos de ; 
Espana's division of 5,000 men, of whom 3,000 had been thrown I 
into Ciudad Rodrigo, so that the surplus for the field was small, I 
and of Julian Sanchez's very efficient guerrillero cavalry, who 
were about 1,200 strong and were now counted as part of the 
regular army and formally styled ' 1st and 2nd Lancers of 

The Portuguese troops left to defend the northern frontier 
were all militia, with the exception of a couple of batteries of 
artillery and the cavalry brigade of regulars which had been 
with Wellington in Leon during the autumn, under Madden, 
but was now transferred to Silveira's charge, and set to watch 
the frontier of the Tras-os-Montes, with the front regiment 
at Braganza. Silveira in that province had the four local 
regiments of militia, of which each had only one of its two 
battalions actually embodied. Baccelar had a much more 
important force, but of the same quality, the twelve regiments 

1 Dated Feb. 24 and 27, Dispatches, viii. pp. 629 and 638. 

2 These figures are those of January, taken from the ' morning state ' in 
Los Ejircitos cspanoles, the invaluable book of 1822 published by the 
Spanish Staff. 


forming the divisions of Trant and J. Wilson, and comprising 

all the militia of the Entre Douro c Minho province and of 

northern Beira. Three of these regiments were immobilized by 

having been told off to serve as the garrison of Almeida. 

Farther south Lecor had under arms the two militia regiments 

of the Castello Branco country, watching their own district. 

The total force of militia available on the whole frontier must 

; have been about 20,000 men of very second-rate quality : each 

| battalion had only been under arms intermittently, for periods 

of six months, and the officers were for the most part the 

inefficient leavings of the regular army. Of the generals 

Silveira was enterprising, but over bold, as the record of his 

, earlier campaigns sufficiently demonstrated — Trant and Wilson 

; had hitherto displayed equal energy and more prudence : but 

in the oncoming campaign they were convicted of Silveira's 

fault, over-confidence. Baccelar passed as a slow but fairly 

safe commander, rather lacking in self-confidence. 

Wellington's very interesting memoranda divide the possi- 
bilities of March-April into three heads, of which the last 
contains three sub-sections : — 

(1) Marmont may, on learning that Badajoz is in danger, 
march with practically the whole of his army to succour it, as 
he did in May-June 1811. If this should occur, Abadia and 
Carlos de Espana will advance and boldly take the offensive, 
laying siege to Astorga, Toro, Zamora, Salamanca, and other 
fortified posts. Silveira will co-operate with his cavalry and 
infantry, within the bounds of prudence, taking care that his 
cavalry, which may support Abadia, does not lose communica- 
tion with, and a secure retreat upon, his infantry, which will 
not risk itself. 

(2) Marmont may leave a considerable force, perhaps the 
two divisions of Souham and Bonnet, in Leon, while departing 
southward with the greater part of his army : ' this is the 
operation which it is probable that the enemy will follow.' 
What the Army of Galicia can then accomplish will depend on 
the exact relative force of itself and of the French left in front 
of it, and on the state of the fortified places on the Douro and 
Tormes [Toro, Zamora, Salamanca] and the degree of equip- 
ment with which General Abadia can provide himself for siege- 


work. But Espana and Julian Sanchez must make all the play- 
that they can, and even Porlier and Longa, from distant Can- 
tabria, must be asked to co-operate in making mischief. Silveira 
and Baccelar will support, but risk nothing. 

(3) Marmont may send to Estremadura only the smaller 
half of his army, and keep four or five divisions in the north, 
a force strong enough to enable him to take the offensive. He 
may attack either (a) Galicia, (b) Tras-os-Montes, or (c) the| 
Beira, including Almeida and Ciudad Rodrigo. 

(a) If Marmont should invade Galicia, Abadia had better) 
retreat, but in the direction that will bring him near the frontiers: 
of Portugal (i. e. by Puebla Senabria) rather than on Lugo and: 
Corunna. In that case Silveira and Baccelar will be on thej 
enemy's flank and rear, and will do as much mischief as theyi 
can on his communications, always taking care that they doj 
not, by pushing too far into Leon, lose their communication! 
with the Galicians or with Portugal. In proportion as the! 
French may advance farther into Galicia, Baccelar will take 
measures to collect the whole of the militia of the Douro 
provinces northward. Carlos de Espana and Julian Sanchez 
ought to have good opportunities of making trouble for the! 
enemy in the Salamanca district, if he pushes far from his base. 

(b) If Marmont should invade Tras-os-Montes [not a likely 
operation, owing to the roughness of the country], Baccelar anc 
Silveira should oppose him in front, while Abadia would come 
down on his flank and rear, and annoy him as much as possible. 
4 Don Carlos and the guerrillas might do a great deal of mischiei 
in Castille.' 

(c) If Marmont should attack Beira, advancing by Ciudad 
Rodrigo and Almeida, both these fortresses are in such a state 
of defence as to ensure them against capture by a coup- de-main, 
and are supplied with provisions to suffice during any time that 
the enemy could possibly remain in the country. Baccelar and 
Silveira will assemble all the militia of the northern provinces 
in Upper Beira, and place themselves in communication witb 
Carlos de Espana. They will endeavour to protect the maga- 
zines on the Douro and Mondego [at Celorico, Guarda, Lamego. 
St. Joao de Pesqueira], and may live on the last in case of urgent 
necessity, but not otherwise, as these stores could not easily be 


replaced. An attempt should be made, if possible, to draw 
the enemy into the Beira Raixa (i. e. the Castcllo Branco 
country) rather than towards the Douro. Abadia will invade 
northern Leon ; what he can do depends on the force that 
Marmont leaves on the Esla, and the strength of his garrisons 
at Astorga, Zamora, Toro, &c. Supposing Marmont takes this 
direction, Carlos de Espana will destroy before him all the 
bridges on the Yeltes and Huebra, and that of Barba del 
Puerco, and the three bridges at Castillejo, all on the Lower 

It will be seen that the alternative (2) was Marmont's own 

choice, and that he would have carried it out but for Napoleon's 

orders, which definitively imposed upon him (3 c) the raid into 

northern Beira. With the inconclusive operations resulting 

from that movement we shall deal in their proper place. It 

began on March 27th, and the Marshal was over the Agueda on 

March 30th. The last British division had left Ciudad Rodrigo 

three weeks before Marmont advanced, so difficult was it for him 

to get full and correct information, and to collect a sufficiently 

large army for invasion. On the 26th February he was under 

the impression that two British divisions only had yet marched 

for Badajoz, though five had really started. On March 6th, 

when only the 5th Division remained in the North, he still 

believed that Wellington and a large fraction of his army were 

in their old positions. This was the result of his adversary's 

i wisdom in stopping at Freneda till March 5th ; as long as he was 

there in person, it was still thought probable by the French 

that only a detachment had marched southward. Hence came 

| the lateness of Marmont's final advance : for a long time he 

! might consider that he was, as his master ordered, 4 containing ' 

| several British divisions and the Commander-in-Chief himself. 

Meanwhile, on taking stock of his situation at Elvas on 

| March 12th, Wellington was reasonably satisfied. Not only was 

the greater part of his army in hand, and the rest rapidly 

coming up, but the siege material had escaped all the perils of 

storms by sea and rocky defiles by land, and was much where 

he had expected it to be. The material which moved by road, 

the sixteen 24-lb. howitzers which had marched on January 

30th, and a convoy of 24-pounder and 18-pounder travelling- 


carriages and stores, which went off on February 2, had both 
come to hand at Elvas, the first on February 25th, the second 
on March 3, and were ready parked on the glacis. This was 
a wonderful journey over mountain roads in the most rainy 
season of the year. The sea-borne guns had also enjoyed 
a surprising immunity from winter storms ; Dickson, when 
he arrived at Setubal on February 10th, found that the 24- 
pounders from Oporto had arrived thirty-six hours before him, 
and on the 14th was beginning to forward them by river-boat 
to Alcacer do Sal, from where they were drawn by oxen to 
Elvas, along with their ammunition 1 . The only difficulty 
which arose was that Wellington had asked Admiral Berkeley 
commanding the squadron at Lisbon, to lend him, as a supple- 
mentary train, twenty 18-pound ship guns. The admiral sent 
twenty Russian guns (leavings of Siniavins's squadron captured 
in the Tagus at the time of the Convention of Cintra). Dickson 
protested, as these pieces were of a different calibre from the 
British 18-pounder, and would not take its shot. The admiral 
refused to disgarnish his own flagship, which happened to be 
the only vessel at Lisbon with home-made 18-pounders on 
board. Dickson had to take the Russian guns perforce, and tcl 
cull for their ammunition all the Portuguese stores at Lisbon, 
where a certain supply of round shot that fitted was discovered.! 
though many thousands had to be rejected as ' far too low.] 
On March 8th the whole fifty-two guns of the siege-train were! 
reported ready, and the officer commanding the Portuguese! 
artillery at Elvas announced that he could even find a small 
supplement, six old heavy English iron guns of the time o 1 
George II, which had been in store there since General Bur 
goyne's expedition of 1761, besides some Portuguese guns oi 
similar calibre. The old brass guns which had made such bac 
practice in 1811 were not this time requisitioned — fortunatel) 
they were not needed. The garrison of Elvas had for some 
weeks been at work making gabions and fascines, which were al 
ready, as was also a large consignment of cutting-tools from th< 
Lisbon arsenal, and a train of twenty-two pontoons. Altogethe 
the material was in a wonderful state of completeness. 

1 For details see Jones, Sieges of the Peninsula, Appendix in vol. 
pp. 421-5, and the Dickson Papers, ed. Leslie, for Feb. 1812. 


For the service of the siege Wellington could dispose of about 
300 British and 560 Portuguese artillerymen, a much larger 
force than had been available at the two unlucky leaguers of 
1811. Colonel Framingham was the senior officer in this arm 
present, but Wellington had directed that Alexander Dickson 
should take charge of the whole service of the siege, just as he 
had been entrusted with all the preparations for it. There 
were fifteen British, five German Legion, and seventeen 
Portuguese artillery officers under his command. The Portu- 
guese gunners mostly came from the 3rd or Elvas regiment, the 
British were drawn from the companies of Holcumbe, Gardiner, 
Glubb, and Rettberg. 1 Under Colonel Fletcher, senior engineer 
officer, there were 115 men of the Royal Military Artificers 
present at the commencement of the siege, and an additional 
party came up from Cadiz during its last days. But though this 

i was an improvement over the state of things in 1811, the numbers 
were still far too small ; there were no trained miners whatever, 

j and the volunteers from the line acting as sappers, who were 

i instructed by the Artificers, were for the most part unskilful — 
only 120 men of the 3rd Division who had been at work during 
the leaguer of Ciudad Rodrigo were comparatively efficient. 
The engineer arm was the weak point in the siege, as Wellington 
complained in a letter which will have to be dealt with in its 
proper place. He had already been urging on Lord Liverpool 

i the absolute necessity for the creation of permanent units 
of men trained in the technicalities of siege-work. Soon after 
Rodrigo fell he wrote, ' I would beg to suggest to your lordship 
the expediency of adding to the Engineer establishment a corps 
of sappers and miners. It is inconceivable with what dis- 
advantage we undertake a siege, for want of assistance of this 
description. There is no French corps d'armee which has not 
a battalion of sappers and a company of miners. We are 
obliged to depend for assistance of this sort upon the regiments 
of the line ; and, although the men are brave and willing, they 
want the knowledge and training which are necessary. Many 
casualties occur, and much valuable time is lost at the most 
critical period of the siege V 

For details see Duncan's History of the Royal Artillery, ii. pp. 318-19. 
8 Wellington, Dispatches, viii. p. 601. 

OMAN. V q 


The situation on March 12th, save in this single respect, 
seemed favourable. It was only fourteen miles from Elvas, 
where the siege-train lay parked and the material was ready, 
to Badajoz. Sufficient troops were already arrived not only 
to invest the place, but to form a large covering army against 
any attempt of Soult to raise the siege. There was every reason 
to believe that the advance would take the French unawares. 
Only Drouet's two divisions were in Estremadura, and before 
they could be reinforced up to a strength which would enable 
them to act with effect some weeks must elapse. Soult, as in 
1811, would have to borrow troops from Granada and the 
Cadiz Lines before he could venture to take the offensive. Unless 
he should raise the siege of Cadiz or evacuate Granada, he 
could not gather more than 25,000 or 30,000 men at the very 
most : and it would take him three weeks to collect so many. 
If he approached with some such force, he could be fought, with 
very little risk : for it was not now as at the time of Albuera : 
not three Anglo-Portuguese infantry divisions, but eight were 
concentrated at Elvas : there would be nine when the 5th 
Division arrived. Not three British cavalry regiments (the 
weak point at Albuera), but fourteen were with the army. If 
Soult should push forward for a battle, 40,000 men could be 
opposed to him, all Anglo-Portuguese units of old formation, 
while 15,000 men were left to invest Badajoz. Or if Wellingto 
should choose to abandon the investment for three days ( 
Beresford had done in May 1811) he could bring 55,000 me 
to the contest, a force which must crush Soult by the fori 
of double numbers, unless he should raise the siege of Cadi: 
and abandon Granada, so as to bring his whole army to th 
Guadiana. Even if he took that desperate, but perha 
necessary, measure, and came with 45,000 men, leaving onl 
Seville garrisoned behind him, there was no reason to suppose 
that he could not be dealt with. 

The only dangerous possibility was the intervention of 
Marmont with five or six divisions of the Army of Portugal, as 
had happened at the time of the operations on the Caya in June 
1811. Wellington, as we have seen in his directions to Baccelar 
and Castanos, thought this intervention probable. But from 
the disposition of Marmont's troops at the moment of his own 


I departure from Freneda, he thought that he could count on 

i three weeks, or a little more, of freedom from any interference 
from this side. Two at least of Marmont's divisions (Souham 
and Bonnet) would almost certainly be left in the North, to 
contain the Galicians and Asturians. Of the other six only one 
(Foy) was in the valley of the Tagus : the rest were scattered 
about, at Salamanca, Avila, Valladolid, &c, and would take 
time to collect \ Wellington was quite aware of Marmont's 
difficulties with regard to magazines ; he also counted on the 
roughness of the roads, the fact that the rivers were high in 
March, and (most of all) on the slowness with which information 
would reach the French marshal 2 . Still, here lay the risk, so 
far as Wellington could know. What he could not guess was 
that the movement which he feared had been expressly for- 
bidden to Marmont by his master, and that only on March 27th 

i was permission granted to the Marshal to execute the march to 
Almaraz. By that time, as we have already seen, it was too 
late for him to profit by the tardily-granted leave. 

But it was the possibility of Marmont's appearance on the 
scene, rather than anything which might be feared from Soult, 
which made the siege of Badajoz a time-problem, just as that 
of Ciudad Rodrigo had been. The place must, if possible, be 
taken somewhere about the first week in April, the earliest date 
at which a serious attempt at relief was likely to be made 3 . 
On March 14th, every preparation being complete, the pon- 

| toon train, with a good escort, moved out of Elvas, and was 
brought up to a point on the Guadiana four miles west of 

1 For Wellington's speculations (fairly correct) as to Marmont's distribu- 
tion of his troops, see Dispatches, viii. p. 618, Feb. 19, to Graham. 

2 Wellington to Victor Alten, March 5, Dispatches, viii. p. 649, makes 
a special point of ' the difficulties which the enemy experiences in getting 
intelligence ' as a means of gaining time for himself. 

3 Napier (iv. p. 98) tries to make out that Wellington's siege began ten days 
later than he wished and hoped, by the fault of the Portuguese Regency. 
I cannot see how Badajoz could have been invested on the 6th of March, 
when (as the route-directions show) the head of the marching column from 
the Agueda only reached Portalegre on the 8th. The movement of the 
army was not delayed, so far as I can see, by the slackness of Portuguese 
management at Lisbon or Elvas. But Wellington certainly grumbled. 
Did he intend that Hill alone should invest Badajoz, before the rest of 

| the army arrived ? 



Badajoz, where it was laid without molestation. On the next 
day Le Marchant's heavy dragoons crossed, but (owing to an 
accident to one of the boats) no more troops. On the 16th, 
however, the 3rd, 4th, and Light Divisions passed, and invested 
Badajoz without meeting any opposition : the garrison kept 
within the walls, and did not even prevent Colonel Fletcher, 
the commanding engineer, from approaching for purposes of 
reconnaissance to the crest of the Cerro de San Miguel, only 
200 yards from the enceinte. The investing corps of 12,000 
bayonets was under Beresford, who had just returned from 
a short and stormy visit to Lisbon, where he had been harrying 
the regency, at Wellington's request, upon financial matters, 
and had been dealing sternly with the Junta de Viveres, or 
Commissariat Department \ The situation had not been found 
a happy one. ' After a perfect investigation it appears that the 
expenditure must be nearly £6,000,000 — the means at present 
are £3,500,000 ! A radical reform grounded upon a bold and 
fearless inquiry into every branch of the revenue, expenditure, 
and subsidy, and an addition to the latter from England, can 
alone put a period to these evils. To this Lord Wellington, though 
late, is now turning his eyes. And when the Marshal, in con- 
junction with our ambassador, shall have made his report, it 
must be immediately acted upon — for there is no time to lose 2 

The investment was only part of the general movements of 
the army on the 16th. The covering-force was proceeding to 
take up its position in two sections. Graham with the 1st, 6th, 
and 7th Divisions, and Slade's and Le Marchant's horse, crossed 
the Guadiana, and began to advance down the high road to 
Seville, making for Santa Marta and Villafranca. Hill with the 
other section, consisting of his own old troops of the Estrema- 
duran army, the 2nd Division and Hamilton's Portuguese, 
Long's British and Campbell's Portuguese cavalry, marched 
by the north bank of the Guadiana, via Montijo, towards 

1 D'Urban's diary, Feb. 7-16 : he accompanied Beresford, being his 
Chief-of- the- Staff. 

2 I spare the reader the question of Portuguese paper money and English 
exchequer bills, which will be found treated at great length in Napier, iv. 
pp. 97-9. Napier always appears to think that cash could be had by asking 
for it at London, in despite of the dreadful disappearance of the metallic 
currency and spread of irredeemable bank-notes which prevailed in 1812. 


Merida, which had not been occupied by either party since 
January 17th. These two columns, the one 19,000, the other 
14,000 strong, were to drive in the two French divisions which 
were at this moment cantoned in Estremadura — Drouet was 
known to be lying about Zafra and Llerena, covering the 
Seville chaussee, Daricau to have his troops at Zalamea and 
Los Hornachos, watching the great passage of the Guadiana at 
Merida. As each division with its attendant cavalry was not 
much over 6,000 strong, there was no danger of their combining 
so as to endanger either of the British columns. Each was 
strong enough to give a good account of itself. Hill and 
Graham were to push forward boldly, and drive their respective 
enemies before them as far as the Sierra Morena, so that Soult, 
when he should come up from Seville (as he undoubtedly 
would in the course of a few weeks), should have no foothold 
in the Estremaduran plain to start from, and would have to 
manoeuvre back the containing force in his front all the way 
from the summit of the passes to Albuera. 

In addition to these two columns and the investing corps at 
Badajoz, Wellington had a reserve of which some units had not 
yet come up, though all were due in a few days, viz. the 5th 
Division, Pack's and Bradford's independent Portuguese 
brigades, and the cavalry of Bock and Anson — about 12,000 
men — : the last of them would be up by the 21st at latest. 

There was still one more corps from which Wellington in- 
tended to get useful assistance. This was the main body of the 
Spanish Army of Estremadura, the troops of Penne Villemur 
and Morillo, about 1,000 horse and 4,000 foot \ which he 
destined to play the same part in this campaign that Blake 
had played during the last siege of Badajoz. By Castanos's 
leave this little force had been moved from its usual haunts by 
Caceres and Valencia de Alcantara, behind the Portuguese 
frontier, to the Lower Guadiana, from whence it was to enter the 
Condado de Niebla. It passed Redondo on March 17th on its 
way towards San Lucar de Guadiana, feeding on magazines 
provided by its allies ; Penne Villemur's orders were that he 

1 The Conde had 1,114 horse and 3,638 foot on Jan. 1, not including two 
of Morillo' s battalions then absent. The total force used for the raid was 
probably as above. 


should establish himself in the Condado (where there was still 
a small Spanish garrison at Ayamonte), and strike at Seville, 
the moment that he heard that Soult had gone north towards 
Estremadura. The city would be found ill-garrisoned by 
convalescents, and Juramentados of doubtful loyalty : if it were 
not captured, its danger would at any rate cause Soult to turn 
back, just as he had in June 1811, for he dared not lose his base 
and arsenal. It was hoped that Ballasteros with his roving corps 
from the mountain of Ronda would co-operate, when he found 
that the troops usually employed to ' contain ' him had marched 
off. But Ballasteros was always a ' law unto himself,' and it 
was impossible to count upon him : he particularly disliked 
suggestions from a British quarter, while Castanos was always 
sensible and obliging 1 . 

Before dealing with the operations of the actual siege of 
Badajoz, which require to be studied in continuous sequence, it 
may be well to deal with those of the covering corps. 

Graham marched in two columns, one division by Albuera, 
two by Almendral. He ran against the outposts of Drouet at 
Santa Marta, from which a battalion and a few cavalry hastily 
retired to Villafranca, where it was reported that Drouet himself 
was lying. Graham judged that the French general would 
probably retire towards Llerena by the main road, and hoped 
to harass, if not to surprise him, by a forced night march on that 
place. This was executed in the night of the 18th-19th, but 
proved a disappointment : the vanguard of the British column 
entered Llerena only to find it empty — Drouet had retired not 
southward but eastward, so as to get into touch with Daricau's 
division at Zalamea — he had gone off by Ribera to Los Horna- 
chos. Graham thereupon halted his main body at Zafra, with 
the cavalry out as far as Usagre and Fuente Cantos. A dispatch 
from Drouet to his brigadier Reymond was intercepted on the 
21st, and showed that the latter, with four battalions at Fregenal, 
had been cut off from his chief by the irruption of the British 
down the high-road, and was ordered to rejoin him by way of 
Llerena. Graham thought that he might catch this little force, 
so withdrew his cavalry from Llerena, in order that Reymond 

1 Details in a dispatch to Colonel Austin of March 15, Dispatches, viii. 
p. 666. General scheme in a letter to Castanos of Feb. 16. Ibid., p. 614. 


might make his way thither unmolested, and be caught in a trap 
by several British brigades converging upon him by a night 
march. This operation, executed on the night of the 25th, 
unfortunately miscarried. The French actually entered 
Llerena, but as the columns were closing in upon them an 
unlucky accident occurred. Graham and his staff, riding ahead 
of the 7th Division, ran into a cavalry picket, which charged 
them. They came back helter-skelter on to the leading battalion 
of the infantry, which fired promiscuously into the mass, killed 
two staff officers, and nearly shot their general \ The noise of 
this outburst of fire, and the return of their own dragoons, 
warned the 1,800 French in Llerena, who escaped by a mountain 
path towards Guadalcanal, and did not lose a man. 

Improbable as it would have been judged, Drouet had 
abandoned the Seville road altogether, and gone off eastward. 
His only communication with Soult would have to be by Cor- 
dova : clearly he had refused to be cut off from Daricau : possibly 
he may have hoped to await in the direction of Zalamea and 
Castuera the arrival of troops from the Army of Portugal, 
coming down by Truxillo and Medellin from Almaraz. For 
Soult and his generals appear to have had no notice of the 
Emperor's prohibition to Marmont to send troops to Estrema- 
dura. On the other hand the Duke of Ragusa had written, in 
perfect good faith, before he received the imperial rescript, 
that he should come to the aid of Badajoz with four or five 
divisions, as in June 1811, if the place were threatened. 

On the 27th Graham resolved to pursue Drouet eastward, 
even hoping that he might slip in to the south of him, and drive 
him northward in the direction of Merida and Medellin, where 
he would have fallen into the arms of Hill's column. He had 
reached Llera and La Higuera when he intercepted another 
letter — this time from General Reymond to Drouet ; that 
officer, after escaping from Llerena on the night of the 25th-26th, 
had marched to Azuaga, where he had picked up another 

1 Something too like a panic was occasioned at the head of the 7th by 
the appearance of the few French dragoons and the galloping back of the 
staff and orderlies. A confused firing broke out down the column without 
object ! Mem. — Even British troops should not be allowed to load before 
a night attack.' D' Urban' s diary, March 26. 

232 THE SIEGE OF BADAJOZ [March 17 j 

detachment under General Quiot. He announced that he was 
making the best of his way towards Fuente Ovejuna, behind the 
main crest of the Sierra Morena, by which circuitous route he 
hoped to join his chief. 

Graham thought that he had now another opportunity of! 
surprising Reymond, while he was marching across his front, 
and swerving southward again made a second forced night; 
march on Azuaga. It failed, like that on Llerena three days J 
before — the French, warned by Afrancesados, left in haste, and 
Graham's exhausted troops only arrived in time to see themi 

Reymond's column was joined next day at Fuente Ovejuna by 1 
Drouet and Daricau, so that the whole of the French force ii 
Estremadura was now concentrated — but in an unfavourable 
position, since they were completely cut off from Seville, an( 
could only retire on Cordova if further pressed. Should Soult 
wish to join them with his reserves, he would have to marcl 
up the Guadalquivir, losing four or five days. 

Graham and his staff were flattering themselves that the} 
had won a considerable strategical advantage in this matter, 
when they were disappointed, by receiving, on March 3( 
a dispatch from Wellington prohibiting any further pursuit 
of Drouet, or any longer stay on the slopes of the Sierra Morem 
The column was ordered to come back and canton itself about 
Fuente del Maestre, Almendralejo, and Villafranca. B] 
April 2nd the three divisions were established in these places 
Their recall would seem to have been caused by Wellington's 
knowledge that Soult had by now concentrated a heavy force 
at Seville, and that if he advanced suddenly by the great 
chaussee, past Monasterio and Fuente Cantos, Graham might 
be caught in a very advanced position between him and Drouet, 
and find a difficulty in retreating to join the main body of the; 
army for a defensive battle on the Albuera position \ 

Meanwhile Hill, with the other half of the covering army, had 
been spending a less eventful fortnight. He reached Merida; 

1 For details of this forgotten campaign I rely mainly on D'UrbanY 
unpublished diary. As he knew Estremadura well, from having served 
there with Beresford in 1811, he was lent to Graham, and rode with hisi 
staff to advise about roads and the resources of the country. 


on March 17 and found it unoccupied. Drouct was reported to 
be at Villafranca, Daricau to be lying with his troops spread 
wide between Medellin, Los Hornachos, and Zalamea. Hill 
crossed the Guadiana and marched to look for them : his first 
march was on Villafranca, but Drouet had already slipped 
away from that point, avoiding Graham's column. Hill then 
turned in search of Daricau, and drove one of his brigades 
out of Don Benito near Medellin. The bulk of the French 
division then went off to the south-east, and ultimately joined 
Drouet at Fuente Ovejuna, though it kept a rearguard at 
Castuera. Hill did not pursue, but remained in the neighbour- 
hood of Merida and Medellin, to guard these two great passages 
of the Guadiana against any possible appearance of Marmont's 
troops from the direction of Almaraz and Truxillo. Wellington 
(it will be remembered) had believed that Marmont would 
certainly come down with a considerable force by this route, and 
(being ignorant of Napoleon's order to the Marshal) was expect- 
ing him to be heard of from day to day. As a matter of fact 
only Foy's single division was in the Tagus valley at Talavera : 
that officer kept receiving dispatches for his chief from Drouet 
and Soult, imploring that Marmont should move south without 
delay. This was impossible, as Foy knew ; but he became so 
troubled by the repeated requests that he thought of marching, 
i on his own responsibility, to try to join Drouet. This became 
almost impracticable when Drouet and Daricau withdrew south- 
| ward to the borders of Andalusia : but Foy then thought of 
executing a demonstration on Truxillo, on his own account, 
hoping that it might at least distract Wellington. On April 4 
he wrote to Drouet that he was about to give out that he was 
Marmont's advanced guard, and to march, with 3,000 men only, 
I on that point, leaving the rest of his division in garrison at 
i Talavera and Almaraz ; he would be at Truxillo on the 9th \ If 
he had started a week earlier, he would have fallen into the 
i hands of Hill, who was waiting for him at Merida with four times 
| his force. But the news of the fall of Badajoz on the 6th 
reached him in time to prevent him from running into the 
lion's mouth. Otherwise, considering Hill's enterprise and 

The letter maybe found in King Joseph's Correspondance, viii. pp. 345-6. 
See also Girod de l'Ain's Vie militaire du General Foy, pp. 368-9. 


Foy's complete lack of cavalry, there might probably have been 
something like a repetition of the surprise of Arroyo dos 

So much for the covering armies — it now remains to be 
seen how Wellington dealt with Badajoz, in the three weeks 
during which Graham and Hill were keeping the peace for him 
in southern and eastern Estremadura. 

On surveying the fortress upon March 16th the British 
engineers found that it had been considerably strengthened 
since the last siege in June 1811. Fort San Cristobal had been 
vastly improved — its glacis and counterscarp had been raised, 
and a strong redoubt (called by the French the Lunette Werle, 
after the general killed at Albuera) had been thrown up on the 
rising slope where Beresford's breaching batteries had stood, 
so that this ground would have to be won before it could be 
again utilized. On the southern side of the Guadiana the Castle 
had been provided with many more guns, and some parts of 
the precipitous mound on which it stood had been scarped. The 
breach of 1811 had been most solidly built up. No danger was 
feared in this quarter — it was regarded as the strongest part 
of the defences. The approach toward the much more accessible 
bastions just below the Castle had been made difficult, by 
damming the Rivillas stream : its bridge near the San Roque 
gate had been built up, and the accumulated water made 
a broad pool which lay under the bastions of San Pedro and 
La Trinidad ; its overflow had been turned into the ditch in, 
front of San Pedro, and, by cutting a cunette or channel, a deepj 
but narrow water obstruction had been formed in front of thei 
Trinidad also — the broad dry ditch having a narrow wet ditchi 
sunk in its bottom just below the counterscarp. This inunda- 
tion was destined to give great trouble to the besiegers. The 
Pardaleras fort had been connected with the city by a well- 
protected trench between high earthen banks. Finally the 
three bastions on the south side next the river, San Vincente.l 
San Jose, and Santiago, had been strengthened by demi-lunes.i 
which they had hitherto lacked, and also by driving a system 
of mines from their counterscarps under the glacis : these were 
to be exploded if the besiegers should push up their trenchef 
and breaching batteries close to the walls on this side, whicl 


was one of the weakest in the city, since it was not covered, 
as were the other fronts, by outlying works like the Pardaleras 
and Picurina forts or the San Roque lunette. The existence of 
this series of mines was revealed to the besiegers by a French 
sergeant-major of sappers, a skilful draughtsman, who had 
been employed in mapping out the works. Having been 
insulted, as he conceived, by his captain, and refused redress 
by the governor, he fled to the British camp in a rage, and 
placed his map (where the mines are very clearly shown) and 
his services at the disposition of Wellington 1 . The identical 
map, a very neat piece of work, lies before me as I write these 
lines, having passed into the possession of General D'Urban, 
the chief of the Portuguese staff. It was in consequence of 
their knowledge of these defences that the British engineers 
left the San Vincente front alone 2 . 

The garrison on March 15th consisted of five battalions of 
French regulars, one each from certain regiments belonging 
to Conroux, Leval, Drouet, and Daricau (2,767 men), of two 
battalions of the Hesse-Darmstadt regiment of the Rheinbund 
division of the Army of the Centre (910 men), three companies 
of artillery (261 men), two and a half companies of sappers 
(260 men), a handful of cavalry (42 men), a company of Spanish 
Juramentados, and (by casual chance) the escort of a convoy 

i which had entered the city two days before the siege began. 
The whole (excluding non-combatants, medical and commis- 

1 sariat staff, &c.) made up 4,700 men, not more than an 
adequate provision for such a large place. The governor, 
Phillipon, the commandants of artillery and engineers (the 
last-named, Lamare, was the historian of the three sieges of 
Badajoz), and nearly all the staff had been in the fortress for 
more than a year. The battalions of the garrison (though not 

1 This man is mentioned in Wellington's Dispatches, viii. p. 609 : 4 The 
Sergent-major des Sapeurs and Adjudant des travaux and the French miner 
may be sent in charge of a steady non-commissioned officer to Estremoz, 
there to wait till I send for them.' 

This renegade's name must have been Bonin, or Bossin : I cannot 
read with certainty his extraordinary signature, with a paraphe, at the 
bottom of his map. The English engineers used it, and have roughly 
sketched in their own works of the third siege on top of the original 
coloured drawing. 


the same as those who had sustained the assaults of 1811) had 
been many months settled in the place, and knew it almost 
as well as did the staff. They were all picked troops, including 
the German regiment, which had an excellent record. But 
undoubtedly the greatest factor in the defence was the ingenuity 
and resource of the governor, which surpassed all praise : oddly 
enough Phillipon did not show himself a very skilful mover 
of troops in the field, when commanding a division in the Army 
of Germany in 1813, after his capture and exchange : but 
behind the walls of Badajoz he was unsurpassable \ 

The scheme of attack which Wellington, under the advice 
of his engineers, employed against Badajoz in March 1812 
differed entirely from that of May- June 1811. The fact that 
the whole was a time-problem remained the same : the danger 
that several of the French armies might, if leisure were granted 
them, unite for its relief, was as clear as ever. But the idea 
that the best method of procedure was to assail the most 
commanding points of the fortress, whose capture would make 
the rest untenable, was completely abandoned. Fort San 
Cristobal and the lofty Castle were on this occasion to be left 
alone altogether. The former was only observed by a single 
Portuguese brigade (first Da Costa's and later Power's). The 
second was not breached, or even battered with any serious 
intent. This time the front of attack was to be the bastions 
of Santa Maria and La Trinidad, on the south-eastern side of 
the town. The reason for leaving those of San Vincente and 
San Jose, on the south-western side, unassailed — though they 
were more accessible, and defended by no outer forts — was 
apparently the report of the renegade French sergeant-major 
spoken of above ; ' they were countermined, and therefore three 
or four successive lodgements would have to be formed against 
them 2 .' To attack Santa Maria and the Trinidad a preliminary 
operation was necessary — they were covered by the Picurina 
fort, and only from the knoll on which that work stands could 
they be battered with effect. The Picurina was far weaker 

1 When he commanded the 1st Division of the 1st Corps under Vandamme, 
and was present when that corps was nearly all destroyed on Aug. 30, 
1813, at Culm. 

* Jones, Sieges of the Peninsula, i. p. 103. 


than the Pardaleras fort, from whose site a similar advantage 
could be got against the bastions of San Roque and San Juan. 
It must therefore be stormed, and on its emplacement would 
be fixed the batteries of the second parallel, which were to do 
the main work of breaching. The exceptional advantage to be 
secured in this way was that the counterguard (inner protective 
bank) within the glacis of the Trinidad bastion was reputed to 
be so low, that from the Picurina knoll the scarp of the bastion 
could be seen almost to its foot, and could be much more 
effectively battered than any part of the defences whose upper 
section alone was visible to the besieger. 

Despite, therefore, of the need for wasting no time, and of 
the fact that the preliminary operations against the Picurina 
must cost a day or two, this was the general plan of attack 
adopted. The investment had been completed on the evening 
! of the 16th : on the same day 120 carts with stores of all kinds 
marched from Elvas, and on the 17th these were already being 
deposited in the Engineers' Park, behind the Cerro de San Miguel, 
whose rounded top completely screened the preparations from 
the sight of the garrison. 

The besieged had no notion whatever as to the front which 
would, on this third attempt, be selected for the attack of 
the British. The elaborate fortifications and improvements 
made in the Castle and San Cristobal tend to show that these 
old points of attack were expected to be once more assailed. 
Hence the besiegers got the inestimable advantage of an 
unmolested start on the night of March 17th. Colonel Fletcher 
had risked the dangers of drawing the first parallel at a very 
short distance from the Picurina fort. On a night of tem- 
pestuous rain and high wind, a parallel 600 yards long was 
j picketed out, on a line ranging only from 160 to 200 yards from 
j the covered- way of the work, and 1,800 workmen in the course 
: of the night threw up the parallel, and 4,000 feet of a communi- 
i cation-trench, leading backward to the head of a ravine in the 
i hill of San Miguel, which gave good cover for bringing men and 
! material up from the rear. Not a shot was fired by the French 
j all through the night, and at dawn the parallel and approach 
j were already 3 feet deep and 3 feet 6 inches wide — a good start. 
With daylight the enemy discovered what had been done, 

238 THE SIEGE OF BADAJOZ [March 24; 

and opened a furious fire both of cannon and musketry upom 
the trenches. The three nearest bastions of the fortress joinedl 
in with their heavy guns, but the 18th was a day of suehj 
constant rain that even at a distance of only 500 or 600 yards' 
it was impossible to see much, or take accurate aim at the 
trenches. The working parties went on deepening and im-j 
proving the parallel and the communication behind it, without 
suffering any great loss. 

During the night of the 18th-19th they were able to trace: 
out and begin two batteries, destined to breach the Picurina,; 
in the line of the parallel, and to extend it at both ends, fromi 
the Rivillas on one side to the foot of the hill of San Miguel 
on the other. 

This was visible on the following morning, and Phillipon> 
thought the prospects of the fort so bad that he resolved to 
risk a sortie, to destroy at all costs the trenches which were sd 
dangerously near to their objective. At midday two battalions, 
— 1,000 men — starting from the lunette of San Roque, dasheq 
up the hill, got into the north end of the parallel, and drove oul* 
the working parties for a distance of some 500 yards : they carried 
off many entrenching tools, for which the governor had offeree 
the bonus of one dollar a piece. But they had no time to dej 
any serious damage to the parallel, for the guard of the trencheit 
and the working parties, rallying fifty yards up the hill, cam<! 
down on them in force, within a quarter of an hour, and evictee, 
them again after a sharp tussle. The loss on the two sides wa:| 
very different — the British lost 150 men, the besieged 304, o 
whom many were drowned in the inundation, while trying t< 
take short cuts through it to the gates. The effect of the sorti< 
had been practically nil, as far as destroying the works went; 
During this skirmish Colonel Fletcher was wounded in th< 
groin by a ball, which hit his purse, and while failing to penetratd 
further, forced a dollar-piece an inch into his thigh. He wa: 
confined to his tent for some fourteen days, and his subordinates; 
Majors Squire and Burgoyne, had to take up his duty, thougl 1 
Wellington ordered that he should still retain nominal charg«j 
of the work, and consulted him daily upon it. 

On the next night (March 20th) the parallel and approaclj 
against the Picurina being practically complete, and only th»j 


battery emplacements in it requiring to be finished, the engineers 

of the besieging army resolved to continue the line of trenches 

into the flat ground in front of the Bastion of San Pedro and 

the Castle, it being intended that batteries should be constructed 

here to play on the Trinidad and the neighbouring parts of the 

fortress, when the Picurina should have fallen. It would save 

time to have everything ready on this side, when the fort should 

, have been mastered. Trouble at once began — not only from 

' the enemy's fire, which swept all this low ground, but 

i still more from the continuous bad weather. The rain which 

had easily run away from the sloping trenches on the Cerro de 

! San Miguel, lodged in the new works, could not be drained off, 

and melted away the earth as fast as it was thrown up. Mud 

j cast into the gabions ran off in the form of slimy water, and 

the parapets could only be kept upright by building them of 

j sandbags. The men were actually flooded out of the trenches 

i by the accumulated water, which was almost knee deep. In 

j the rear the Guadiana rose, and washed away the two bridges 

I which connected the army with its base at Elvas. The deluge 

lasted four days and was a terrible hindrance, it being impossible 

to finish the parallel in the low ground, or to begin moving the 

battering-guns, even those destined for the long-completed 

batteries on the Cerro de San Miguel. 

It was not till the afternoon of the 24th that fine weather at 
last set in ; this permitted the guns to be brought at once into 
the two batteries facing the Picurina, and, after herculean 
efforts, into other batteries (nos. 4 and 5) in the low ground 
also. Three days at least had been lost from the vile weather. 
On the morning of the 25th all the batteries opened simul- 
taneously, ten guns against the Picurina, eighteen against the 
parts of the fortress behind it. The fort was completely 
silenced, as was the little lunette of San Roque. Not much 
damage appeared to have been inflicted on the Picurina beyond 
the breaking of many of its palisades, and the degradation of 
its salient angle. But Wellington ordered that it should be 
stormed that night, in order that he might make up for the lost 
time of the 20th-24th. 

The storm was duly carried out by General Kempt and 500 
men of the Light and the 3rd Divisions, at ten o'clock that 


night. It was a desperate affair, for the ditch was deep, and not 
in the least filled with rubbish, and the scarp was intact save 
at the extreme salient angle. Though the garrison's guns had 
been silenced, they kept up a furious fire of musketry, which 
disabled 100 men before the stormers reached the ditch. The 
main hope of the assault had been that two turning columns 
might break in at the gorge : but it was found so strongly closed, 
with a double row of palisades and a cutting, that all efforts to 
force an entrance were repelled with loss. Baffled here, one 
party tried the desperate expedient of casting three long 
ladders, not into, but across the ditch on the right flank of the 
fort, which though deep was not so broad but that a 30-foot 
ladder would reach from its lip to the row of f raises, or project- 
ing beams, ranged horizontally at the top of the scarp some 
feet below the brim of the parapet. The ladders sagged down 
but did not break, and some fifty men headed by Captain Oates 
of the 88th ran across on the rungs and got a lodgement inside 
the fort. At the same moment General Kempt launched th 
reserve of the storming party — 100 men, mostly from th 
2/83rd and headed by Captain Powys of that regiment — at th 
exact salient of the fort, the only place where it was seriousl 
damaged, and succeeded in breaking in. The garrison, who 
made a stubborn resistance, were overpowered — 83 were killed 
or wounded, the governor, Colonel Gaspard-Thierry, and 
145 taken prisoners, only 1 officer and 40 men escaped into the 
town. The losses of the stormers had been over 50 per cent, 
of the men engaged ! Four officers and 50 rank and file were 
killed, 15 officers and 250 men wounded, out of a little over 500 
who joined in the assault. Phillipon tried a sortie from the 
lunette of San Roque, just as the fort fell, in hopes to recover it : 
but the battalion which came out was easily beaten off by the 
fire of the men in the trenches to the right, and lost 50 killed 
and wounded. 

The last stage of the siege had now been reached. By 
capturing the Picurina on its commanding knoll, the British had 
established themselves within 400 yards of the Trinidad and 
450 yards of the Santa Maria bastions, which they could batter 
with every advantage of slope and ground. But it was a very 
costly business to make the necessary lodgement in the ruined 


fort, to demolish it, and throw its earth in the reverse direction, 
and to build in its gorge the two batteries (nos. 8, 9), which were 
to breach the body of the place. The fire of three bastions bore 
directly on the spot where the batteries were to be placed, and 
there was also a most deadly enfilading fire from the high-lying 
j Castle, and even from the distant San Cristobal. Though the 
three batteries in the flat ground (to which a fourth was 
( presently added) endeavoured to silence this fire, they only 
'succeeded in doing so very imperfectly, for the French kept 
replacing one gun by another, from their ample store, when 
any were disabled. From the 26th to the 30th four days were 
! employed in building the Picurina batteries, with great loss 
of life all the time, which fell mainly on the engineer officers 
who were directing the work and on the sappers under their 
orders. The French covered the whole of the Picurina knoll 
with such a hail of projectiles that no amount of cover seemed 
to guarantee those labouring in it from sudden death. When 
the batteries had been completed, the bringing forward of the 
'guns and the ammunition cost many lives more. Twice there 
were considerable explosions of powder, while the magazines in 
;the batteries were being filled. 

At last, however, on March 30, one of the two new batteries 
in the gorge of the Picurina was able to open, and on the 31st 
|the other followed suit, supported by a third supplementary 
Ibattery (no. 7), planned under the left flank of the fort. The 
i practice was excellent, but at first the effect was not all that 
had been hoped : the Trinidad and the Santa Maria bastions 
were solidly built and resisted well. On April 2, however, both 
began to show considerable and obvious injury, and it was 
clear that a few days more would ruin them. But there was 
one serious contretemps : the inundation between the Picurina 
and the fortress showed no signs of going down — it had been 
swollen by the rains of the 20th-24th, and could not flow away 
so long as the dam at the lunette of San Roque kept it back. 
While the water was held up, the breaches, soon about to 
develop, could only be got at by a narrow and curved route, 
between the inundation and the steep slope on which stands 
jthe Pardaleras. It had been intended that the assault should 
Ibe delivered from the trenches, but this was impossible till the 

I OMAN. V -o 


Rivillas should have fallen to its usual insignificant breadth) 
and depth. Hence efforts were made to burst the dam at all 
costs, but neither did artillery fire suffice, nor a venturesome 
expedition on the night of the 2nd of April by the engineeij 
Lieutenant Stanway and 20 sappers, who slipped down the 
ravine and laid powder-bags against the dam, despite of thcj 
French fire. The powder exploded, but did not do its work! 
For several days an attempt was made to sap down to the dan| 
from the second parallel. But it cost so many lives at the heac 
of the sap, and the zig-zags advanced so slowly, that on th< 
3rd of April the attempt was given up, and it was determined 
that the breaches must be assaulted from the west bank oj 
the Rivillas only. 

Meanwhile the two breaches, the larger one in the front ol 
the Trinidad bastion, the smaller in the flank of the Santa 
Maria, began to be very apparent, and gave good hope to thi| 
besiegers. The French, however, delayed their progress b;! 
the most gallant efforts : 200 men worked in the ditch afte 
dark, to clear away the debris that was falling into it. Thi 
they did under constant artillery fire from the batteries 
which played on the ditch with grape at intervals in th 
night, and killed scores of the workmen. They also deepenet 
the ditch at the foot of the counterscarp, till it was 18 fee 
from the covered-way to the bottom of its level. The mine 
parapets were built up every night with earth and wool-pack 
only to be destroyed again every morning. The garrison bega 
to feel uncomfortable, for not only was the loss of life grea 
but the furious fire, by which they strove to keep down tb 
efficiency of the siege-batteries, had begun to tell so much o 
their reserves of ammunition that, by April 3, there was n 
common shell left, and very little grape — of the round-she 
much more than half had been expended. Phillipon W£ 
obliged to order the artillerymen to be sparing, or a few daj 
more would leave him helpless. As the French fire slackenet 
that of the besiegers grew more intense, and Wellington pi 
forward the last twelve guns of his siege-park, hitherto reserve* 
to form some new supplementary batteries on the right of h 
line [nos. 10, 11, 12]. 

On April 4th the breaches were both growing practicable, ar; 


news from the South warned Wellington that he must hurry ; 
Soult was at last over the Sierra Morena with all the troops 
that he could scrape together from Andalusia. It was lucky 
indeed that Marmont was not marching to join Soult, but 
was executing a raid into central Portugal, not by his own 
wish but by the special orders of the Emperor, as has already 
been explained elsewhere. His irruption into the Beira was 
absolutely disregarded by Wellington : for as long as the two 
French armies were not united, the British commander did 
not much fear either of them. Still, if Soult came close up to 
Badajoz, it would be necessary to send part of the siege-troops 
to join the covering force — and this would be inconvenient. 
Wherefore Wellington resolved to strike at once, while Soult 
was still four or five marches away. 

On the 4th the breaches, both in the Trinidad and in Santa 
Maria, looked practicable — on the morning of the 5th they were 
certainly so. But the question was raised as to whether the 
mere practicability of the breaches was enough to ensure success 
—it was clearly made out that the garrisons were building 
a semicircular inner retrenchment among the houses of the 
town, which would cut off the breaches, and give a second line 
jof resistance. Moreover Colonel Fletcher, who was just out of 
bed, his wound of the 19th March being on the mend, reported 
from personal observation that it was clear that all manner of 
obstacles were being accumulated behind both breaches, and 
every preparation made for a desperate defence of them. 
Wherefore Wellington ordered the storm to be put off for a day, 
and turned two batteries on to a new spot, where Spanish 
informants reported that the wall of the curtain was badly 
built, between Santa Maria and the Trinidad. So true was this 
report, that a very few hours battering on the morning of the 
6th made a third breach at this point, as practicable as either 
of the others. 

To prevent the enemy from getting time to retrench this 
third opening into the town, the storm was ordered for 7.30 
o'clock on the same evening — it would have been well if the 
hour had been kept as first settled. 




The arrangements which Wellington made for the assault-; 
a business which he knew would be costly, and not absolutely! 
certain of success — were as follows. 

The Light and 4th Divisions were told off for the main attad) 
at the three breaches. They were forced to make it on th 
narrow front west of the Rivillas, because the inundatioi 
cramped their approach on the right. The 4th Division, undej 
Colville, was to keep nearest to that water, and to assail thj 
breach in the Trinidad bastion and also the new breach in th! 
curtain to its left. The Light Division was to devote itself t 
the breach in the flank of Santa Maria. Each division was t 
provide an advance of 500 men, with which went twelve laddei 
and a party carrying hay-bags to cast into the ditch. For tb 
counterscarp not being ruined, it was clear that there woul 
be a very deep jump into the depths. The two divisior 
followed in columns of brigades, each with a British brigac 
leading, the Portuguese in the centre, and the other Britis 
brigade in the rear. Neither division was quite complete — tl 
4th having to provide the guard of the trenches that nigh 
while the Light Division detached some of its rifles, to distra< 
the attention of the enemy in the bastions to the left, by lyir 
down on the glacis and firing into the embrasures when the 
cannon should open. Hence the Light Division put only 3,00 
the 4th 3,500 men into the assault. When the breaches we 
carried, the Light Division was to wheel to the left, the 4th 1 
the right, and to sweep along the neighbouring bastions c 
each side. A reserve was to be left at the quarries below tl 
Pardaleras height, and called up when it was needed. 

In addition to the main assault two subsidiary attacks we 
to be made — a third (as we shall see) was added at the la 
moment. The guards of the trenches, furnished by the 4 


Division, were to try to rush the lunette of San Roque, which 
was in a dilapidated condition, and were to cut away the dam 
t successful. A much more serious matter was that, on the 
xprcss petition of General Picton, he was allowed to make 
in attempt to take the Castle by escalade. This daring officer 
ugued that all the attention of the enemy would be concen- 
rated on the breaches, and that the Castle was in itself so strong 
hat it was probable the governor would only leave a minimum 
garrison in it. He had marked spots in its front where the walls 
were comparatively low, owing to the way in which the rocky 
ind grassy slope at its foot ran up and down. The escalade 
was to be a surprise — the division was to cross the Ri villas 
it a point far below the inundation, where the ruins of a mill 
spanned the stream, and was to drag ladders up the steep 
mound to the foot of the wall. 

Two demonstrations, or false attacks, were to be made with 
|the intention of distracting the enemy — one by Power's Portu- 
guese brigade beyond the Guadiana, who were to threaten 
an escalade on the fort at the bridge-head : the other by the 
Portuguese of the 5th Division against the Pardaleras. At 
'the last moment — the order does not appear in the full draft 
jof the directions for the storm — Leith, commanding the 5th 
'Division, was told that he might try an escalade, similar to that 
lallotted to Picton, against the river-bastion of San Vincente, 
[the extreme north-west point of the defences, and one that had 
'hitherto been left entirely untouched by the besiegers. For this 
he was to employ one of his two British brigades, leaving the 
other in reserve. 

Every student of the Peninsular War knows the unexpected 
result of the storm : the regular assault on the breaches failed 
jwith awful loss, but all the three subsidiary attacks, on San 
Roque, the Castle, and San Vincente, succeeded in the most 
brilliant style, so that Badajoz was duly taken, but not in the 
way that Wellington intended. 

The reason why the main assault failed was purely and simply 
that Phillipon and his garrison put into the defence of the 
breaches not only the most devoted courage, but such an 
accumulation of ingenious devices as had never before been seen 
in a siege of that generation — apparently Phillipon must share 


the credit with his commanding engineer, Lamare, the historian 
of the siege. The normal precaution of cutting off the breaches 
by retrenchments on both sides, and of throwing up parapets 
of earth, sandbags, and wool-packs behind them, was the least 
part of the work done. What turned out more effective was 
a series of mines and explosive barrels planted at the foot of the 
counterscarp, and connected with the ramparts by covered trains. 
This was on the near side of the ditch, where there was dead 
ground unsearched by the besiegers' artillery. In the bottom 
of it, and at the foot of the breaches, had been placed or thrown 
all manner of large cumbrous obstacles, carts and barrows 
turned upside down, several large damaged boats, some rope 
entanglements, and piles of broken gabions and fascines. The 
slopes of the breaches had been strewn with crowsfeet, and 
were covered with beams studded with nails, not fixed, but 
hung by ropes from the lip of the breach ; in some places 
harrows, and doors studded with long spikes, were set upon the 
slope. At the top of each breach was a device never forgotten 
by any observer, the chevaux de frise, formed of cavalry sword- 
blades 1 set in foot-square beams, and chained down at their ends 
For the defence of the three breaches Phillipon had told ofl 
700 men, composed of the light and grenadier companies oj 
each of his battalions, plus the four fusilier companies of the 
103rd Line — about 1,200 men in all. A battalion of the 88tl 
was in the cathedral square behind, as general reserve. The 
two Hessian battalions were on the left, holding the Castle 
the lunette of San Roque, and the San Pedro bastion. The] 
three other French battalions occupied the long range of bastion;! 
from San Juan to San Vincente. As there had been manjj 
casualties, the total of the available men had sunk to aboui 
4,000, and since nearly half of them were concentrated at o] 
behind the breaches, the guard was rather thin at other points 
especially (as Picton had calculated) at the Castle, which, thougl 
its front was long, was held by only 250 men, mostly Hessians 
It was a most unfortunate thing that the time of the assault 
originally fixed for 7.30, was put off till 10 — and that the siege 
batteries slacked down after dark. For the two hours thu 

1 These swords were those of the large body of Spanish dismounts 
cavalry which had surrendered at the capitulation in March 1811. 


granted to the besieged were well spent in repairing and 
strengthening all their devices for defence. An earlier assault 
would have found the preparations incomplete, especially in the 
matter of the combustibles placed in the ditch. 

It would be useless, in the narrative of the doings of this 
bloody night, to make any attempt to vie with those paragraphs 
of lurid description which make Napier's account of the storm 
of Badajoz perhaps the most striking section of one of the 
most eloquent books in the English language. All that will 
be here attempted is to give a clear and concise note of what 
happened between ten and one o'clock on the night of April 6, 
1812, so far as it is possible to secure a coherent tale from the 
diaries and memoirs of a number of eye-witnesses. Burgoyne 
and Jones of the Royal Engineers, Dickson the commander 
of the Artillery, Grattan and McCarthy from the 3rd Division, 
Leith Hay of the 5th, and Kincaid, Simmons, and Harry Smith 
of the Light Division, along with many more less well-known 
authorities, must serve as our instructors, each for the part of 
the storm in which he was himself concerned. 

It had been intended, as was said above, that all the columns 
should converge simultaneously on their points of attack, and 
for that reason the distances between the starting-point of each 
division and its objective had been calculated with care. But, 
as a matter of fact, the hour of 10 p.m. was not quite accurately 
kept. On the right Picton's division was descried by the 
French in the Castle as it was lining the first parallel, and was 
heavily fired upon at 9.45, whereupon the general, seeing 
that his men were discovered, ordered the advance to begin 
at once — the 3rd Division was fording the Rivillas under a blaze 
of fire from the Castle and the San Pedro bastion before 10 struck 
on the cathedral clock. On the other hand, at the western flank, 
the officer in charge of the ladder and hay-bag party which 
was to lead the 5th Division, lost his way along the bank of 
the Guadiana, while coming up from the Park to take his place 
at the head of Leith's men. The column had to wait for the 
ladders, and was more than an hour late in starting. Only the 
central attack, on the three breaches, was delivered with exact 

It is perhaps best to deal with this unhappy assault first — it 


was a horrible affair, and fully two-thirds of the losses that 
night were incurred in it. The two divisions, as ordered, came 
down the ravine to the left of the Pardaleras hill without being 
discovered : the line of vision from the town was in their 
favour till they were actually on the glacis, and heavy firing 
against Picton's column was heard as they came forward. The 
4th Division was turning to the right, the Light Division to the 
left, just as they drew near the ditch, when suddenly they were 
descried, and the French, who were well prepared and had 
long been waiting for the expected assault, opened on them 
with musketry from all the breaches, and with artillery from 
the unruined flanking bastions. The storm began as unhappily 
as it was to end. The advance of the 4th Division bearing to 
the right, came on a part of the ditch into which the inundation 
had been admitted — not knowing its depth, nor that the 
French had made a six-foot cutting at the foot of the counter- 
scarp. Many men, not waiting for the ladders, sprang down 
into the water, thinking it to be a mere puddle. The leading 
files nearly all perished — the regimental record of the Welsh 
Fusiliers shows twenty men drowned — that of the Portuguese 
regiment which was behind the Fusiliers as many as thirty. 
Finding the ditch impassable here, the rest of the 4th Division 
storming-party swerved to the left, and, getting beyond the 
inundation, planted their ladders there : some came down in 
this way, more by simply taking a fourteen-foot leap on to the 
hay-bags, which they duly cast down. At the same moment 
the advance of the Light Division descended in a similar fashion 
into the ditch farther to the left, towards Santa Maria. Many 
men were already at the bottom, the rest crowded on the edge, 
where the French engineers fired the series of fougasses, mines, 
and powder-barrels which had been laid in the ditch. They 
worked perfectly, and the result was appalling — the 500 volun- 
teers who formed the advance of each division were almost all 
slain, scorched, or disabled. Every one of the engineer officers 
set to guide the column was killed or wounded, and the want 
of direction, caused by the absence of any one who knew the 
topography of the breaches, had the most serious effect during 
the rest of the storm. Of the Light Division officers with the 
advance only two escaped unhurt. 


There was a horrible check for a minute or two, and then the 
heads of the main column of each division reached the edge of 
the ditch, and began to leap down, or to make use of those of 
the ladders which had not been broken. The gulf below was all 
ablaze, for the explosions had set fire to the carts, boats, broken 
gabions, &c., which the French had set in the ditch, and they 
were burning furiously — every man as he descended was 
clearly visible to the enemy entrenched on the top of the 
breaches. The troops suffered severely as they dribbled over 
the edge of trtie counterscarp, and began to accumulate in 
the ditch. From the first there was great confusion — the two 
divisions got mixed, because the 4th had been forced to swerve 
to its left to avoid the inundation, and so was on ground 
originally intended for the Light. Many men mistook an 
unfinished ravelin in the bottom of the ditch for the foot of the 
central breach, and climbed it, only to find themselves on 
a mass of earth divided by a wide sunken space from the point 
they were aiming at. To get to the foot of the largest breach, 
that in the Trinidad bastion, it was necessary to push some 
way along the blazing bottom of the ditch, so as to turn and 
get round the end of the inundation. The main thrust of the 
attack, however, went this way, only part of the Light Division 
making for the Santa Maria breach, on which it had been 
intended that all should concentrate. As to the central breach 
in the curtain, it seems that few or none made their way 1 thither : 
the disappointment on reaching the top of the ravelin in front 
of it, made all who got alive to that point turn right or left, 
instead of descending and pushing straight on. Jones records 
that next morning there was hardly a single body of an English 
soldier on the central breach, while the slopes and foot of each 
of the two flank breaches were heaped with hundreds of corpses. 
This was a misfortune, as the curtain breach was the easiest 
of the three, and having been made only that afternoon was 
not retrenched like the others. 

From ten to twelve the surviving men in the ditch, fed by the 
coming up of the rear battalions of each division, and finally by 
the reserve, delivered a series of desperate but disorderly attacks 

This fact, much insisted on by Jones, is disputed by certain Light 
Division witnesses, but does not seem to be disproved by them. 


on the Trinidad and Santa Maria breaches. It is said that on 
no occasion did more than the equivalent of a company storm 
at once — each officer as he struggled to the front with those of 
his men who stuck to him, tried the breach opposite him, and 
was shot down nearer or farther from its foot. Very few ever 
arrived at the top, with its chevaux de frise of sword-blades. 
The footing among the beams and spikes was uncertain, and 
the French fire absolutely deadly — every man was armed with 
three muskets. Next morning observers say that they noted 
only one corpse impaled on the chevaux de frise of the Trinidad 
breach, and a few more under it, as if men had tried to crawl 
below, and had had their heads beaten in or blown to pieces. 
But the lower parts of the ascent were absolutely carpeted with 
the dead, lying one on another. 

More than two hours were spent in these desperate but vain 
attempts to carry the breaches : it is said that as many as forty 
separate assaults were made, but all to no effect — the fire 
concentrated on the attacked front was too heavy for any man 
to face. At last the assaults ceased : the survivors stood — unable 
to get forward, unwilling to retreat — vainly answering the 
volleys of the French on the walls above them by an ineffective 
fire of musketry. Just after twelve, Wellington, who had been 
waiting on the hill above, receiving from time to time reports 
of the progress of the assault, sent down orders for the recall 
of the two divisions. They retired, most unwillingly, and 
formed up again, in sadly diminished numbers, not far from the 
glacis. The only benefit obtained from their dreadful exertions 
was that the attention of the French had been concentrated 
on the breaches for two hours — and meanwhile (without their 
knowledge) the game had been settled elsewhere. 

The losses had been frightful — over one man in four of those 
engaged : the Light Division had 68 officers and 861 men 
killed and wounded out of about 3,000 present : the 4th Divi- 
sion 84 officers and 841 men out of 3,500. The Portuguese 
battalions which served with them had lost 400 men more — 
altogether 2,200 of the best troops in Wellington's army had 
fallen — and all to no result. 

But while the main stroke failed, each of the subsidiary 
attacks, under Picton and Leith, had met with complete success, 


and despite of the disaster on the breaches, Badajoz was at 
Wellington's mercy by midnight. The success of either escalade 
by itself would have been enough to settle the game. 

Picton's division, as already mentioned, had been detected by 
the French as it was filing into the parallel below the Castle : and 
since a heavy fire was at once opened on it, there was no use 
in halting, and the general gave the order to advance without 
delay. The men went forward on a narrow front, having to 
cross the Rivillas at the ruined mill where alone it was fordable. 
This was done under fire, but with no great loss. The palisade 
on the other bank of the stream was broken down by a general 
rush, and the storming-party found itself at the foot of the 
lofty Castle hill. To get the ladders up it was a most difficult 
business — the slope was very steep, almost precipitous in 
parts, and the ladders were thirty feet long and terribly heavy. 
Though no assault had been expected here, and the preparations 
were not so elaborate as at the breaches, yet the besieged were 
not caught unprepared, and the column, as it climbed the hill, 
was torn by cannon shot and thinned by musketry. The French 
threw fire-balls over the wall, and other incandescent stuff 
(carcasses), so there was fair light by which to see the stormers. 
Picton was hit in the groin down by the Rivillas, and the charge 
of the assault fell to his senior brigadier, Kempt, and Major 
Burgoyne of the Engineers. The narrow space at the foot of 
the walls being reached, the ladders were reared, one after the 
other, toward the south end of the Castle wall. Six being at last 
ready in spots close to each other, an attempt was made to 
mount, with an officer at the head of each. But the fire was so 
heavy, that no man reached the last rungs alive, and the 
enemy overthrew all the ladders and broke several of them. 
One is said to have been pulled up by main force into the 
Castle ! Meanwhile the besieged cast heavy stones and broken 
beams into the mass of men clustering along the foot of the 
wall, and slew many. But the 3rd Division was not spent — 
Kempt's brigade had delivered the first rush — Champlemond's 
Portuguese headed the second, when they had climbed the 
slope — but also to no effect. Lastly the rear brigade — Camp- 
bell's — came up, and gave a new impetus to the attack. There 
was now a very large force, 4,000 men, striving all along the base 


of the wall, on a front of some 200 yards. Wherever footing 
could be found ladders were reared, now at considerable distances 
from each other. The garrison of the Castle was not large — two 
Hessian and one French company and the gunners, under 
300 men, and when simultaneous attacks were delivered at 
many points, some of them were scantily opposed. Hence it 
came that in more places than one men at last scrambled to the 
crest of the wall. A private of the 45th is said to have been the 
first man whose body fell inside, not outside, the battlements — - 
the second, we are told, was an ensign (McAlpin) of the 88th, 
who defended himself for a moment on the crest before he was 
shot. The third man to gain the summit was Colonel Ridge 
of the 5th Fusiliers, who found a point where an empty em- 
brasure made the wall a little lower, entered it with two or 
three of his men, and held out long enough to allow more ladders 
to be planted behind him, and a nucleus to gather in his rear. He 
pushed on the moment that fifteen or twenty men had mounted, 
and the thin line of defenders being once pierced the resistance 
suddenly broke down — all the remaining ladders were planted, 
and the 3rd Division began to stream into the Castle. Picton 
was by this time again in command ; he had recovered his 
strength, and had hobbled up the slope, relieving Kempt, who 
was by now also wounded. The time was about eleven o'clock, 
and the din at the breaches down below showed that they were 
still being defended. 

It took some time to dislodge the remainder of the garrison from 
the Castle precinct ; many took refuge in the keep, and defended 
it from stair to stair, till they were exterminated. But by 
12 midnight all was over, and Picton would have debouched 
from the Castle, to sweep the ramparts, but for the fact that all 
its gates, save one postern, were found to have been bricked 
up — the French having intended to make it their last point of 
resistance if the town should fall. The one free postern being 
at last found, the division was preparing to break out, when the 
head of its column was attacked by the French general reserve, 
a battalion of the 88th, which Phillipon had sent up from the 
cathedral square, when he heard that the Castle had been forced. 
There was a sharp fight before the French were driven off, in 
which (most unhappily) Ridge, the hero of the escalade, was 


shot dead. By the time that this was over, Badajoz had been 
entered at another point, and Picton's success was only part 
of the decisive stroke. But as he had captured in the Castle 
all the French ammunition reserve, and nearly all their food, 
the town must anyhow have fallen, because of his daring 
exploit. The loss of the division was not excessive considering 
the difficulties they had overcome, about 500 British and 200 
Portuguese out of 4,000 men engaged. 

Meanwhile, in the valley below the Castle, the guards of the 
trenches had stormed the lunette of San Roque, and were hard 
at work cutting the dam, so that in an hour or two the inunda- 
tion was beginning to drain off rapidly. This also would have 
been a decisive success, if nothing else had been accomplished 

The blow, however, which actually finished the business, and 
caused the French to fail at the breaches, was delivered by 
quite another force. It will be remembered that a brigade — 
Walker's — of the 5th Division, had been directed to escalade 
the remote river-bastion of San Vincente. It was nearly an 
hour late, because of the tiresome mistake made by the officer 
charged with the bringing up of the ladders from the Park. 
And only at a few minutes past eleven did Leith, heading the 
column, arrive before the palisades of the covered way, near 
the Guadiana. Walker's men were detected on the glacis, and 
a heavy artillery fire was opened on them from San Vincente 
and San Jose, but they threw down many of the palisades and 
began to descend into the ditch — a drop of 12 feet. There was a 
cut in the bottom, to which water from the Guadiana had been 
let in, and the wall in front was 30 feet high. Hence the first 
attempts to plant the ladders were unavailing, and many men 
fell. But coasting around the extreme north end of the bastion, 
close to the river, some officers found that the flank sloped down 
to a height of only 20 feet, where the bastion joined the water- 
side wall. Three or four ladders were successfully planted here, 
while the main attention of the garrison was distracted to the 
frontal attack, and a stream of men of the 4th, 30th, and 44th 
began to pour up them. The French broke before the flank 
attack : they were not numerous, for several companies had 
been drawn off to help at the breaches, and the bastion was 


won. As soon as a few hundred men were formed, General 
Walker led them along the ramparts, and carried the second 
bastion, that of San Jose. But the two French battalions 
holding the succeeding western bastions now massed together, 
and made a firm resistance in that of Santiago. The stormers 
were stopped, and an unhappy incident broke their impetus — 
some lighted port-fires thrown down by the French artillery- 
men were lying about — some one called out that they were the 
matches of mines. Thereupon the advancing column instinc- 
tively fell back some paces — the French charged and drove 
them in, and the whole retired fighting confusedly as far as 
San Vincente. Here General Leith had fortunately left a reserve 
battalion, the 2/38th, which, though only 230 strong, stopped 
the panic and broke the French advance. Walker's brigade 
rallied and advanced again — though its commander was 
desperately wounded — and once more the enemy were swept 
all along the western bastions, which they lost one by one. 

Some of the 5th Division descended into the streets of the 
town, and pushing for the rear of the great breaches, by a long 
detour through the silent streets, at last came in upon them, 
and opened a lively fire upon the backs of the enemy who were 
manning the retrenchments. The main body, however, driving 
before them the garrison of the southern bastions, hurtled in 
upon the flank of the Santa Maria. At this moment the 4th and 
Light Divisions, by Wellington's orders, advanced again towards 
the ditch, where their dead or disabled comrades were lying 
so thick. They thought that they were going to certain death, 
not being aware of what had happened inside the city. But as 
they descended into the ditch only a few scattering shots 
greeted them. The French main body — for 2,000 men had been 
driven in together behind the breaches — had just thrown down 
their arms and surrendered to the 5th Division. Even when 
there was no resistance, the breaches proved hard to mount, and 
the obstructions at the top were by no means easy to remove. 

The governor, Phillipon, had escaped into San Cristobal 
with a few hundred men, and surrendered there at dawn, having 
no food and little ammunition. But he first sent out the few 
horsemen of the garrison to run the gauntlet of the Portuguese 
pickets, and bear the evil news to Soult. 

1812] FALL OF BADAJOZ 255 

Thus fell Badajoz : the best summary of its fall is perhaps 
that of Leith Hay, who followed his relative, the commander 
of the 5th Division, in the assault on San Vincente : — 

4 Had Lord Wellington relied on the storming of the breaches 
alone, the town would not have been taken. Had General Leith 
received his ladders punctually and escaladed at 10, as intended, 
he would have been equally successful, and the unfortunate 
divisions at the breaches would have been saved an hour of 
dreadful loss. If Leith had failed, Badajoz would still have 
fallen, in consequence of the 3rd Division carrying the Castle — 
but not till the following morning ; and the enemy might have 
given further trouble. Had Picton failed, still the success of 
the 5th Division ensured the fall of the place.' The moral would 
seem to be that precautions cannot be too numerous — it was 
the afterthoughts in this case, and not the main design, that 
were successful and saved the game. 

Wellington himself, in a document — a letter to Lord Liver- 
pool — that long escaped notice, and did not get printed in its 
right place in the ninth volume of his Dispatches \ made 
a commentary on the perilous nature of the struggle and the 
greatness of the losses which must not be suppressed. He 
ascribed them to deficiencies in the engineering department. 
4 The capture of Badajoz affords as strong an instance of 
the gallantry of our troops as has ever been displayed. But 
I greatly hope that I shall never again be the instrument of 
putting them to such a test as they were put to last night. 
I assure your lordship that it is quite impossible to carry 
fortified places by vive force without incurring grave loss and 
being exposed to the chance of failure, unless the army should 
be provided with a sufficient trained corps of sappers and 
miners. . . . The consequences of being so unprovided with the 
people necessary to approach a regularly fortified place are, 
first, that our engineers, though well-educated and brave, have 
never turned their minds to the mode of conducting a regular 
siege, as it is useless to think of that which, in our service, it is 
impossible to perform. They think that they have done their 
duty when they have constructed a battery, with a secure 

1 My attention was called to this letter, found among Lord Liverpool's 
papers in 1869, by Mr. F. Turner, of Frome. 


communication to it, which can breach the place. Secondly, 
these breaches have to be carried by vive force at an infinite 
sacrifice of officers and soldiers. . . . These great losses could be 
avoided, and, in my opinion, time gained in every siege, if we 
had properly trained people to carry it on. I declare that 
I have never seen breaches more practicable in themselves than 
the three in the walls of Badajoz, and the fortress must have 
surrendered with these breaches open, if I had been able to 
" approach " the place. But when I had made the third breach, 
on the evening of the 6th, I could do no more. I was then 
obliged either to storm or to give the business up ; and when 
I ordered the assault I was certain that I should lose our best 
officers and men. It is a cruel situation for any person to be 
placed in, and I earnestly request your lordship to have a corps 
of sappers and miners formed without loss of time.' 

The extraordinary fact that no trained corps of sappers and 
miners existed at this time was the fault neither of Wellington 
nor of the Liverpool ministry, but of the professional advisers 
of the cabinets that had borne office ever since the great French 
War broke out. The need had been as obvious during the sieges 
of 1793-4 in Flanders as in 1812. That the Liverpool ministry 
could see the point, and wished to do their duty, was shown by 
the fact that they at once proceeded to turn six companies of 
the existing corps of ' Royal Military Artificers ' into sappers. 
On April 23, less than three weeks after Badajoz fell, a warrant 
was issued for instructing the whole corps in military field- 
works. On August 4 their name was changed from c Royal 
Military Artificers ' to ' Royal Sappers and Miners.' The 
transformation was much too late for the siege of Burgos, but 
by 1813 the companies were beginning to join the Peninsular 
Army, and at San Sebastian they were well to the front. An 
end was at last made to the system hitherto prevailing, by which 
the troops which should have formed the rank and file of the 
Royal Engineers were treated as skilled mechanics, mainly 
valuable for building and carpentering work at home stations. 

One more section, a most shameful one, must be added to 
the narrative of the fall of Badajoz. We have already had to telj 
of the grave disorders which two months before had followed 
the storm of Ciudad Rodrigo. These were but trifling and 


'3\ Cerro 


e>M /%?&■ ■ • I S.Miguel 

A A%\Picunna 

Light cb g ■\.^ > * 
Division CJ 19 :>\: : 

7 \ ^ y 


Retrenchment *i.** 

I Trinidad Breach 
Z Santa Maria Breach 
3 Breach in the Curtain 

Inundation •$&.■ 

'B.'CtcuJMrfuv*, ©x^-a, iqi*t- 

Scale of Yards 

I 1 1 1 1 I 1 1 1 1 I 


venial compared with the offences which were committed by 
the men who had just gone through the terrible experiences of 
the night of April 6th. At Rodrigo there was much drunken- 

! ness, a good deal of plunder, and some wanton fire-raising : 
many houses had been sacked, a few inhabitants were mal- 
treated, but none, it is believed, were mortally hurt. At 
Badajoz the outrages of all kinds passed belief ; the looting was 

! general and systematic, and rape and bloodshed were deplorably 
common. Explanatory excuses have been made, to the effect 
that the army had an old grudge against the inhabitants of the 
city, dating back to the time when several divisions were 
quartered in and about it, after Talavera. It was also said that 
all the patriotic inhabitants had fled long ago, and that those 
who had remained behind were mainly Afrancesados, traitors 
to the general cause. There was some measure of truth in both 
allegations : it was no doubt true that there had been quarrels 
in 1809, and that many loyalist families had evacuated the city 
after the French occupation, and had transferred themselves 
to other parts of Estremadura. The population at the time of 
the British storm was not two-thirds of the normal figure. But 
these excuses will not serve. There can be no doubt that the 
outrages were in no sense reasoned acts of retribution, but were 
a simple outburst of ruffianism. 
Old military tradition in all the armies of Europe held that 

• a garrison which refused to surrender when the breaches had 

!■ become practicable was at the mercy of the conqueror for life 
and limb, and that a town resisting to extremity was the 
natural booty of the stormers. In the eighteenth century there 
were countless instances of a fortress, defended with courage 
up to the moment when an assault was possible, surrendering 
on the express plea that the lives of the garrison were forfeit 
if it held out, when resistance could no longer be successful. 
The attacking party held that all the lives which it lost after the 
place had become untenable were lost unnecessarily, because 
of the unreasonable obstinacy of the besieged : the latter 
therefore could expect no quarter. This was not an unnatural 
view when the circumstances are considered. The defender of 
a wall or a breach has an immense advantage over the stormer, 
till the moment when the latter has succeeded in closing, and 




in bringing his superior numbers to bear. In a curious hortatory 
address which Phillipon published to his garrison \ the passage 
occurs, s realize thoroughly that a man mounting up a ladder 
cannot use his weapon unless he is left unmolested : the head 
comes up above the parapet unprotected, and a wary soldier 
can destroy in succession as many enemies as appear at the 
ladder-top.' This is perfectly true : but Phillipon naturally 
avoided stating the logical conclusion, viz. that when the 
stormers finally succeed in crowning the ramparts, they will 
be particularly ill-disposed towards the garrison who have, 
till the last moment, been braining their comrades or shooting 
them through the head at small risk to themselves. When the> 
assailant, after seeing several of his predecessors on the ladder 
deliberately butchered by a man under cover, gets by some 
special piece of luck on a level with his adversary, it will be ; 
useless for the latter to demand quarter. If it is a question 
of showing mercy, why did not the other side begin ? Qu6 
messieurs les assassins commencent, as the French humorist! 
remarked to the humanitarian, who protested against capitall 
punishment for murderers. There is a grim story of a party oi| 
Tuscan soldiers of the 113th Line, who were pinned into a| 
ravelin on the flank of the lesser breach at Rodrigo, and aftei 
firing to the last minute upon the flank of the Light Division 
threw down their arms, when they saw themselves cut off 
calling out that they were ' poveros Italianos ' — ' So you're nol 
French but Italians are you — then here 's a shot for you,' wat 
the natural answer 2 : — reflections as to the absence of an} 
national enmity towards the victors should have occurred t( 
the vanquished before, and not after, the breach was carried 
The same thing happened at the Castle of Badajoz to th< 
companies, mainly Hessians, who so long held down thi 
stormers of the 3rd Division. If the defenders of the breache: 
escaped summary massacre, it was because the breaches wer< 
not carried by force, and the main body of the French sur 
rendered some time after the assault had ceased, and to troop 
of the 5th Division, who had not been personally engaged wit) 

1 Printed in Belmas, iv, Appendix, p. 369, and dated March 26. 

1 The story may be found in Kincaid, p. 114, and in several other source? 


It was universally held in all armies during the wars of the 
early nineteenth century that the garrison which resisted to 
the last moment, after success had become impossible, had 
no rights. Ney wrote to the governor of Ciudad Rodrigo in 
1810, 4 further resistance will force the Prince of Essling to 
treat you with all the rigour of the laws of war. You have to 
choose between honourable capitulation and the terrible 
| vengeance of a victorious army V Suchet, in more brutal 
words, told the governor of Tortosa that he should put to the 
I sword a garrison which resisted instead of capitulating c when 
! the laws of war make it his duty to do so, large breaches being 
opened and the walls ruined 2 .' A very clear statement of this 
I sanguinary theory is found in a passage in the Memoirs of 
; Contreras, the unlucky governor of Tarragona in 1811 3 . ' The 
,day after the storm General Suchet had me brought before 
him on a stretcher [he was severely wounded] and in presence 
i of his chief officers and of my own, told me in a loud voice 
| that I was the cause of all the horrors which his troops had 
committed in Tarragona, because I had held out beyond the 
limit prescribed in the laws of war, and that those laws directed 
him to have me executed, for not capitulating when the breach 
I was opened ; that having taken the place by assault he had 
I the right to slay and burn ad infinitum. , I replied that ' if it 
| is true that the laws of war state that, if the besieger gets in, 
! he may deliver to the sword and the flames town and garrison, 
and if they therefore suggest as a proper moment for capitula- 
tion that when an assault has become practicable, it is never- 
theless true that they do not prohibit the besieged from resisting 
the assault, if he considers that he can beat it off : I had sufficient 
forces to hold my own, and should have done so if my orders 
had been properly carried out. Therefore I should have been 
called a coward if I had not tried to resist, and no law prohibited 
me from repulsing an assault if I could.' 

But, as has been pointed out recently 4 , Wellington himself 
may be quoted in favour of this theory. In a letter written to 

1 Document in Belmas, iii. p. 287. 2 Ibid., p. 442. 

Published in the collection of Memoir es sur la guerre d'Espagne in 1821. 
By Colonel Callwell, in an article in Blackwood's Magazine for Sep- 
tember 1913. 



Canning in 1820 concerning quite another matter, he remarked, 
' I believe that it has always been understood that the defenders 
of a fortress stormed have no claim to quarter, and the practice 
which prevailed during the last century of surrendering fortresses 
when a breach was opened, and the counterscarp blown in, was 
founded on this understanding. Of late years the French 
availed themselves of the humanity of modern warfare, and 
made a new regulation that a breach should stand one assault 
at least. The consequence of this regulation of Bonaparte 
was the loss to me of the flower of my army, in the assaults o 
Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz. I should have thought mysel 
justified in putting both garrisons to the sword, and if I ha 
done so at the first, it is probable that I should have save 
5,000 men at the second. I mention this to show you that the 
practice which refuses quarter to a garrison that stands ar 
assault is not a useless effusion of blood.' 

Comparatively few of the garrisons of Rodrigo and Badajoa 
were shot down, and those all in hot blood in the moment aftej 
the walls were carried. Suchet's army was much more pitiless 
at Tarragona, where a great part of the Spanish garrison waj 
deliberately hunted down and slaughtered. But there was 
of course, a much more bitter feeling between French and 
Spaniards than between English and French. 

The only reason for enlarging on this deplorable theme ij 
that there was a close connexion in the minds of all soldiers o 
the early nineteenth century, from the highest to the lowes 
ranks, between the idea that an over-obstinate garrison ha< 
forfeited quarter, and the idea that the town they had defende< 
was liable to sack. This may be found plainly stated in Lanncs' 
summons to Palafox at Saragossa in January 1809 \ in th 
capitulation-debate before the surrender of Badajoz in 1811, i 
Augereau's address to the inhabitants of Gerona 2 , in Leval' 
summons to the governor of Tarifa 3 , and with special emphasij 
in Suchet's threatening epistle to Blake on the day before th 
fall of Valencia : ' in a few hours a general assault will precip 
tate into your city the French columns : if you delay till thi 
terrible moment, it will not be in my power to restrain the furj 

1 See Belmas, ii. p. 381. 2 Ibid., ii. pp. 844-5. 

a Text in the Defence of Tarifa, p. G4, and in Arteche. 


of the soldiery, and you alone will be responsible before God 
and man for the evils which will overwhelm Valencia. It is 
the desire to avert the complete destruction of a great town 
that determines me to offer you honourable terms of capitula- 
tion V It was hardly necessary in the Napoleonic era to 
enlarge on the connexion between storm and sack — it was 
presupposed. Every governor who capitulated used to put in 
his report to his own government a mention of his ' desire to 
spare the unfortunate inhabitants the horrors of a storm.' 

This idea, sad to say, was as deeply rooted in the minds of 
British as of French soldiers. It is frankly confessed in many 
a Peninsular diary. ' The men were permitted to enjoy them- 
selves (!) for the remainder of the day,' says Kincaid in his 
narrative of the fall of Badajoz, ' and the usual frightful scene 
i of plunder commenced, which officers thought it prudent to 
avoid for the moment by retiring to the camp V ' The troops 
were, of course, admitted to the immemorial privilege of tearing 
the town to pieces,' says another writer on another occasion 3 . 
The man in the ranks regarded the connexion of storm and sack 
as so close that he could write, ' the prisoners being secured 
and the gates opened, we were allowed to enter the town 
for the purpose of plundering it V But perhaps the most eye- 
i opening sentence on the subject is Wellington's official order 
I of April 7, 1812, issued late in the day, and when the sack 
i had already been going on for fifteen or eighteen hours, ' It is 
| now full time that the plunder of Badajoz should cease ; an 
officer and six steady non-commissioned officers will be sent 
from each regiment, British and Portuguese, of the 3rd, 4th, 
5th, and Light Divisions into the town, at 5 a.m. to-morrow 
morning, to bring away any men still straggling there 5 .' 

It was unfortunately the fact that Badajoz was a Spanish 
and not a French town, and this adds a special shame to the 
lamentable outrages which were perpetrated in its streets for 
many hours after the storm. It is comparatively seldom in 
war that an army takes by assault a town which does not 
belong to the hostile power. The only parallel of recent years 

1 Belmas, iv. p. 202. 2 Kincaid, p. 39. 3 Leith Hay, ii. pp. 256-7. 

4 Memoirs of Donaldson of the 94th, p. 158. 
Wellington, Supplementary Dispatches, vii. p. 311. 


to the sack of Badajoz had been that of Lubeck in November 
1806. Blucher's Prussian corps, retiring before the pursuing 
French, trespassed on neutral territory by seizing on the old 
Hanseatic city, which lay in its way, and endeavouring to 
defend it. The magistrates protested, but were powerless, as 
they had no armed force at their disposition. Then the French 
came upon the scene, and, after a fierce fight, won their way 
over wall and ditch and took the place. They sacked it from 
end to end with every circumstance of atrocity x : Marshal 
Bernadotte, when importuned by the Burgomaster to stay 
the horrors, said that he was sorry, but that his troops only 
recognized the fact that they were in a stormed town — he and 
his officers could only succeed in calling them off after the city 
had been half destroyed. This was sufficiently horrible ; but 
to sack a town belonging to a friendly nation is a shade worse 
than to sack a neutral place — and this the British troops did. 

Two short quotations from eye-witnesses may serve to show 
the kind of scenes that prevailed in Badajoz from the early 
hours of the morning on April 7th down to the following nightJ 

' Unfortunate Badajoz,' writes one narrator 2 , ' met with the! 
usual fate of places taken at the point of the bayonet. In less' 
than an hour after it fell into our possession it looked as| 
if centuries had gradually completed its destruction. The! 
surviving soldier, after storming a town, considers it as his 
indisputable property, and thinks himself at liberty to commit 
any enormity by way of indemnifying himself for the risking ol 
his life. The bloody strife has made him insensible to every' 
better feeling : his lips are parched by the extraordinary 
exertions that he has made, and from necessity, as well as 
inclination, his first search is for liquor. This once obtained 
every trace of human nature vanishes, and no brutal outrage 
can be named which he does not commit. The town was nol 
only plundered of every article that could be carried off, bul 
whatever was useless or too heavy to move was wantonl) 

1 It is said on good first-hand authority that all the inmates of an asylun| 
for female lunatics were raped. See Lettow-Vorbeck, Gcschichte des Kriege\ 
von 1806-7, ii. p. 384. 

2 Hodenberg of the K.G.L. See his letters published in BlackwoocT 
Magazine for March 1913, by myself. 


destroyed. Whenever an officer appeared in the streets the 
wretched inhabitants flocked round him with terror and 
despair, embraced his knees and supplicated his protection. 
But it was vain to oppose the soldiers : there were 10,000 of 
them crowding the streets, the greater part drunk and dis- 
charging their pieces in all directions — it was difficult to escape 
i them unhurt. A couple of hundred of their women from the 
• camp poured also into the place, when it was barely taken, 
to have their share of the plunder. They were, if possible, 
worse than the men. Gracious God ! such tigresses in the 
shape of women ! I sickened when I saw them coolly step over 
the dying, indifferent to their cries for a drop of water, and 
deliberately search the pockets of the dead for money, or even 
i divest them of their bloody coats. But no more of these scenes 
of horror. I went deliberately into the town to harden myself 
to the sight of human misery — and I have had enough of it : my 
blood has been frozen with the outrages I witnessed.' 

Another eye-witness gives a passing glimpse of horrors. 
1 Duty being over, I chanced to meet my servant, who seemed 
to have his haversack already well filled with plunder. I asked 
him where the regiment was : he answered that he did not 
know, but that he had better conduct me to the camp, as 
I appeared to be wounded. I certainly was hit in the head, but 
in the excitement of the escalade had not minded it, nor had 
I felt a slight wound in my leg : but, as I began to be rather 
weak, I took his advice, and he assisted me on. In passing what 
appeared to be a religious house I saw two soldiers dragging 
out an unfortunate nun, her clothes all torn : in her agony she 
knelt and held up a cross. Remorse seized one of the men, who 
appeared more sober than the other, and he swore she should 
not be outraged. The other soldier drew back a step and shot 
his comrade dead. At this moment we found ourselves sur- 
rounded by several Portuguese : they ordered us to halt, and 
presented their muskets at us. I said to my servant, " throw 
them some of your plunder : " he instantly took off his haver- 
sack and threw it among them : some dollars and other silver 
coin rolled out. They then let us pass — had he not done so they 
would have shot us — as they did several others. We got safe 
to the bastion, and my servant carried me on his back to the 


camp, where I got a draught of water, fell asleep instantly, and 
did not waken till after midday V 

' In justice to the army ' — we quote from another authority 2 1 
— ' I must say that the outrages were not general : in many 
cases they were perpetrated by cold-blooded villains who had 
been backward enough in the attack. Many risked their lives 
in defending helpless women, and, though it was rather a 
dangerous moment for an officer to interfere, I saw many of 
them running as much risk to prevent inhumanity as they did 
in the preceding night while storming the town.' The best- 
known incident of the kind is the story of Harry Smith of the 
95th, who saved a young Spanish lady in the tumult, and 
married her two days later, in the presence of the Commander- 
in-Chief himself, who gave away the bride. This hastily-wedded 
spouse, Juana de Leon, was the Lady Smith who was the 
faithful companion of her husband through so many campaigns 
in Spain, Belgium, and South Africa, and gave her name to the i 
town in Natal which, nearly ninety years after the siege of 
Badajoz, was to be the scene of the sternest leaguer that British j 
troops have endured in our own generation. Harry Smith's 
narrative of the Odyssey of himself and his young wife in! 
1812-14, as told in his autobiography, is one of the most) 
romantic tales of love and war that have ever been set down on J 

It was not till late in the afternoon of the 7th that Wellington 
as has been already mentioned, came to the rather tardy con 
elusion that ' it was now full time that the plunder of Badaj 
should cease.' He sent in Power's Portuguese brigade to cle 
out those of the plunderers who had not already gone ba 
exhausted to their camps, and erected a gallows in the cathedr 
square, for the hanging of any criminals who might be detect 
lingering on for further outrages. Authorities differ as t< 
whether the Provost Marshal did, or did not, put his power i: 
action : the balance of evidence seems to show that the mere 
threat sufficed to bring the sack to an end. The men were 
completely exhausted : Napier remarks that ' the tumult 
rather subsided than was quelled.' 

1 Recollections of Col. P. P. Nevill, late Major 63rd [but with the 30th at 
Badajoz], pp. 15-16. 2 Donaldson of the 94th, p. 159. 




Before proceeding to demonstrate the wide-spreading 
results of the fall of the great Estremaduran fortress, it is 
necessary to follow the movements of the French armies which 
had been responsible for its safety. 

Soult had been before Cadiz when, on March 11, he received 
news from Drouet that troops were arriving at Elvas from the 
North, and on March 20 the more definite information that 
Wellington had moved out in force on the 14th, and invested 
Badajoz on the 16th. The Marshal's long absence from his 
head-quarters at Seville at this moment, when he had every 
reason to suspect that the enemy's next stroke would be in his 
own direction, is curious. Apparently his comparative freedom 
from anxiety had two causes. The first was his confidence that 
Badajoz, with its excellent governor and its picked garrison, 
could be relied upon to make a very long defence. The second 
was that he was fully persuaded that when the time of danger 
arrived he could count on Marmont's help — as he had in June 
1811. On February 7 he wrote to his colleague * that he had 
just heard of the fall of Rodrigo, that Wellington's next move- 
ment would naturally be against Badajoz, and that he was 
glad to learn that Montbrun's divisions, on their return from 
Alicante, were being placed in the valley of the Tagus. 4 1 see 
with pleasure that your excellency has given him orders to get 
in touch with the Army of the South. As long as this commu- 
nication shall exist, the enemy will not dare to make a push 
against Badajoz, because at his first movement we can join our 
forces and march against him for a battle. I hope that it 
may enter into your plans to leave a corps between the Tagus 
and the Guadiana, the Truxillo road, and the Sierra de Guada- 
lupe, where it can feed, and keep in touch with the troops 
which I keep in the Serena [the district about Medellin, Don 

1 The letter is printed in Marmont's Correspondance, iv. pp. 304-5. 


Benito, and Zalamea, where Daricau was cantoned]. I am 
persuaded that, when the campaigning season begins, the enemy 
will do all he can to seize Badajoz, because he dare attempt 
nothing in Castille so long as that place offers us a base from 
which to invade Portugal and fall upon his line of communica- 
tions. ... I am bound, therefore, to make a pressing demand 
that your left wing may be kept in a position which makes the 
communication between our armies sure, so that we may be 
able, by uniting our disposable forces, to go out against the 
enemy with the assurance of success.' 

This was precisely what Marmont had intended to do. He 
was convinced, like Soult, that Wellington's next move would 
be against Badajoz, and he placed Montbrun and the divisions 
of Foy, Brennier, and Sarrut about Talavera, Monbeltran, and 
Almaraz, precisely in order that they might be in easy touch 
with Drouet. On February 22 he wrote to his colleague explain- 
ing his purpose in so doing, and his complete acquiescence in 
the plan for a joint movement against Wellington, whenever 
the latter should appear on the Guadiana \ His pledge was 
quite honest and genuine, and in reliance on it Soult made 
all his arrangements. These, however, appear to have been 
rather loose and careless : the Marshal seems to have felt such 
complete confidence in the combination that he made insufficient 
preparations on his own side. No reinforcements were sent 
either to Badajoz or to Drouet, whose 12,000 men were dis- 
persed in a very long front in Estremadura, reaching from 
Medellin and Don Benito on the right to Fregenal on the left. 
This is why Graham, when he moved forward briskly on 
March 17th, found no solid body of the enemy in front of him, 
but only scattered brigades and regiments, which made off in 
haste, and which only succeeded at last in concentrating so 
far to the rear as Fuente Ovejuna, which is actually in Anda- 
lusia, and behind the crest of the Sierra Morena. We may add 
that having been advised by Drouet as early as March 11th 2 

1 This Soult quotes in his recriminatory letter to Marmont of April 8, \ 
and in his angry dispatch to Berthier of the same date (printed in King 
Joseph's Correspondance, viii. p. 355). 

2 The date is proved by the letter from Soult to Marmont of March 11, j 
printed in Marmont's Mtmoires, iv. p. 359. 


that British troops were accumulating behind Elvas, Soult 
ought to have taken the alarm at once, to have moved back to 
Seville from Santa Maria by Cadiz, where he lay on that date, 
and to have issued orders for the concentration of his reserves. 
He did none of these things, was still in front of Cadiz on 
March 20 \ and did not prescribe any movement of troops till, 
on that day, he received Drouet's more definite and alarming 
news that Wellington was in person at Elvas, and had moved 
out toward Badajoz on the 16th. Clearly he lost nine days by 
want of sufficient promptness, and had but himself to blame 
if he could only start from Seville with a considerable field -force 
on March 30. All that he appears to have done on March 11 
was to write to Marmont that the long-foreseen hypothesis of 
a move of Wellington on Badajoz was being verified, and that 
they must prepare to unite their forces. Jourdan has, therefore, 
some justification for his remark that he does not see why 
Soult should have been before Cadiz, amusing himself by 
throwing shells into that place 2 as late as March 20th. 

From the 20th to the 30th of that month Soult was busily 
engaged in organizing the relief-column which, after picking 
up Drouet on the way, was to march to the succour of Badajoz. 
He could not venture to touch the divisions of Conroux and 
Cassagne, which together were none too strong to provide for 
the manning of the Cadiz Lines and the fending off of Ballasteros 
from their rear. But he called off the whole division of Barrois, 
nearly 8,000 strong 3 , Vichery's brigade of infantry from 
Leval's division in the province of Granada 4 , and six regiments 
of Digeon's and Pierre Soult's dragoons. This, with the corre- 
sponding artillery, made a column of some 13,000 men, with 

1 The date is proved by Soult's letter to the Emperor of that date 
from Santa Maria, in which he announces his intention to start, and 
says that he is writing to Marmont, to get him to unite the armies as 
soon as possible. a See his Memoires, p. 377. 

3 To be exact, 7,776 officers and men on March 1 . He also brought with 
him some ' bataillons d' elite' of grenadier companies from Villatte's division. 

4 The 55th, three battalions about 1,500 strong, the fourth being left at 
Jaen. Soult says in his dispatch of April 8 that he took a whole brigade 
from Leval, but the states of April 14 show the 32nd and 58th regiments 
of Leval's division, and three of the four battalions of the 43rd, all left 
in the kingdom of Granada. Apparently three battalions of the 55th and 
one of the 43rd marched, about 2,200 strong. 


which the Marshal started from Seville on the 30th March, 
crossed the Guadalquivir at Lora del Rio next day, and moved 
on Const antina and Guadalcanal. An interesting complication 
would have been caused if Graham had been allowed to stop 
with his 19,000 men at Azuaga and Llerena, where he was 
directly between Soult and Drouet's position at Fuente Ovejuna, 
and if Hill from Merida had moved against Drouet's corps. But 
as Wellington had withdrawn Graham's column to Villafranca 
on March 31, there was nothing left to prevent Drouet from 
coming in from his excentric position, and joining his chief 
at Llerena on April 4th, with the 12,000 men of his own and 
Daricau's divisions. This gave the Marshal some 25,000 men 1 in 
hand, a force which would be manifestly incapable of raising the 
siege of Badajoz, for he knew that Wellington had at least 45,000 
men in hand, and, as a matter of fact, the arrival of the 5th Division 
and other late detachments had raised the Anglo-Portuguese 
army to something more like 55,000 sabres and bayonets. 

Wellington's orders, when he heard that Soult was in the 
passes, and that Drouet was moving to join him, directed 
Graham to fall back on the Albuera position, and Hill to join 
him there by the route of Lobon and Talavera Real, if it should 
appear that all the French columns were moving directly to 
the relief of Badajoz, and none of them spreading out eastward 
towards the Upper Guadiana 2 . These conditions were realized, 

1 Though he calls them only 21,000 in his dispatches. But the figures 
[see Appendix no. VIII] show 23,500. The total in the monthly reports 
indicate 25,000 as more likely. 

2 The orders to Hill issued by Wellington on April 4 and 5 {Dispatches, 
ix. p. 30) contemplate two possibilities : (1) Soult is marching with his whole 
force on Villafranca, and Foy is remaining far away : in this case Hill is 
to move en masse on Albuera. This is the case that actually occurred 
(2) if Foy is moving toward the Upper Guadiana, and Soult is showing 
signs of extending to join him, Howard's British and Ashworth's Portu- 
guese brigades and Campbell's Portuguese horse will stay at Merida as long 
as is prudent, in order to prevent the junction, and will break the bridge 
at the last moment and then follow Hill. 

Wellington, when he wrote his first orders of the 4th to Hill, was 
intending to storm Badajoz on the 5th, and knew, by calculating dis- 
tances, that Soult could not be in front of Albuera till the 7th. He ultimately 
chanced another day of bombardment, running the time limit rather fine. 
But there was no real risk with Graham and Hill at Albuera : Soult could 
not have forced them. 


as Soult moved in one solid body towards Villafranca and 
Fuente del Maestre : so Hill evacuated Mcrida, after destroying 
its bridge, and joined Graham on the old Albuera ground on 
April 6th. They had 31,000 men, including four British 
divisions and four British cavalry brigades, and Wellington 
could have reinforced them from the lines before Badajoz with 
two divisions more, if it had been necessary, while still leaving 
the fortress adequately blockaded by 10,000 or 12,000 men. 
But as Soult did not appear at Fuente del Maestre and Villa- 
franca till the afternoon of April 7th, a day after Badajoz had 
fallen, this need did not arise. The Marshal, learning of the 
disaster, hastily turned back and retired towards Andalusia, 
wisely observing that he ' could not fight the whole English 
army.' It is interesting to speculate what would have happened 
if he had lingered five days less before Cadiz, had issued 
his concentration orders on the 14th or 15th instead of the 
20th March, and had appeared at Villafranca on the 2nd instead 
of the 7th of the next month. His dispatch of April 17 states 
that he had intended to fight, despite of odds, to save Badajoz : 
if. he had done so, and had attacked 40,000 Anglo-Portuguese 
with his 25,000 men, he must inevitably have suffered a dreadful 
disaster. He must have fought a second battle of Albuera 
with much the same strength that he had at the first, while his 
enemy would have had six British divisions instead of two, and 
an equal instead of a wholly inferior cavalry. The result of 
such a battle could hardly have failed to be not only a crushing 
defeat for the French, but the prompt loss of all Andalusia ; for 
thrown back on that kingdom with a routed army, and unable 
to gather in promptly reserves scattered over the whole land, 
from the Cadiz Lines to Granada and Malaga, he must have 
evacuated his viceroyalty, and have retreated in haste either 
on La Mancha or on Valencia. 

It is most improbable, however, that Soult would really have 
ventured to attack the Albuera position 1 , in spite of the 

1 He says in his letter to Berthier of April 8 that he had intended (but 
for the fall of Badajoz) to move by his right that morning, to the lower 
course of the Guadajira river — which would have brought on an action near 
Talavera Real, lower down the stream of the Albuera than the battle-spot 
of May 1811. 


confident language of his ex-post-facto dispatches. His whole 
plan of operations depended on his being joined by the 
Army of Portugal, in accordance with Marmont's promise of 
February 22nd. And he was well aware, by a letter sent by 
Foy to Drouet on March 31st, and received on April 6th, that 
he could expect no help from the North for many weeks, if any 
came at all. That Badajoz was never relieved was due, not to 
Soult's delay in concentrating (though this was no doubt 
unwise), nor to his over-confidence in Phillipon's power of 
resistance, which was (as it turned out) misplaced. He wrote 
to Berthier that s the garrison wanted for nothing — it had still 
food for two months, and was abundantly provided with 
munitions : its total strength was 5,000 men : it had victoriously 
repulsed three assaults : the men were convinced that, however 
great a hostile force presented itself before the breaches, it 
would never carry them : Phillipon had been informed on 
March 28th that I was marching to his help : the troops were 
in enthusiastic spirits, though they had already lost 500 men 
in successful sorties : my advanced guard was at only one long 
day's march from the place, when it succumbs ! ' It was 
indeed an evenement funeste ! 

But Soult's late arrival and miscalculation of the time that 
the siege would take, were neither of them the causes of the 
fall of Badajoz. It would have fallen none the less if he had 
arrived on the Albuera upon April 2nd. The fate of the place 
was really settled by Napoleon's dispatches to Marmont, with 
which we dealt at great length in an earlier chapter 1 . The 
orders of February 11 and February 21 (received by the Duke 
of Ragusa on February 26 and March 2 respectively) forbade 
him to worry about Badajoz, • a very strong fortress supported 
by an army of 80,000 men,' and told him to withdraw to 
Salamanca two of the three divisions which he was keeping in 
the valley of the Tagus, and to reply to any movement of 
Wellington into Estremadura by invading Northern Portugal. 
The plan which Soult and Marmont had concerted for a joint 
relief of Badajoz was expressly forbidden by their master, on 
his erroneous hypothesis that a thrust at Ciudad Rodrigo and 
Almeida must bring Wellington home again. Marmont's 
1 See chapter ii above, pp. 54, 55. 


promise of co-operation, sent off on February 22nd to Seville, 
was rendered impossible — through no fault of his — by the 
imperial dispatch received four days later, which expressly 
forbade him to stand by it. ' The English will only go south- 
ward if you, by your ill-devised scheme, keep two or three 
divisions detached on the Tagus : that reassures them, and 
tells them that you have no offensive projects against them.' So 
Marmont, protesting and prophesying future disaster, was 
compelled to withdraw two divisions from the central position 
on the Tagus, and to leave there only Foy's 5,000 men — 
a negligible quantity in the problem. Nor was this all — he was 
not even allowed to send them back, since the whole Army of 
Portugal was ordered to march into the Beira. 

Soult, therefore, was justified in his wrath when he wrote to 
Marmont that he had been given a promise and that it had 
been broken, ' if there had been the least attempt to concert 
operations between the armies of Portugal and the South, the 
English army would have been destroyed, and Badajoz would 
still be in the power of the Emperor. I deplore bitterly the 
fact that you have not been able to come to an arrangement 
with me on the subject.' But the wrath should have been 
directed against the Emperor, not against his lieutenant, who 
had so unwillingly been forced to break his promise. The only 
censure, perhaps, that can be laid upon Marmont is that he 
should have made it more clear to Soult that, by the new 
directions from Paris, he was rendered unable to redeem his 
pledge. Soult was not, however, without warnings that some- 
thing of the kind might happen : Berthier had written to him 
on February 11th, and the letter must have arrived by the 
middle of March, that the Emperor was displeased to find him 
appealing for troops of the Army of Portugal to be moved to 
Truxillo, and that he ought to be more dependent on his own 
strength \ It would have been better if the Emperor's trusty 
scribe had explained to Soult that Marmont was expressly 
forbidden, in a dispatch written that same day, to keep more 
than one division on the Tagus, or to worry himself about the 
danger of Badajoz. 

Berthier to Soult, Feb. 11. The same date as the fatal dispatch sent 
to Marmont, who was given a copy of that to Soult as an enclosure. 


Marmont's original plan for joining Soult via Almaraz might 
have failed — he himself confesses it in one of his replies to 
Berthier. But it was the only scheme which presented any 
prospect of success. By making it impossible Napoleon rendered 
the fall of Badajoz certain. For it is no defence whatever to 
point out that his dispatch of March 12th, which reached 
Salamanca on March 27, finally gave Marmont the option of 
going southward. By that time it was too late to try the move : 
— if the Duke of Ragusa had marched for Almaraz and Truxillo 
next morning, he would still have been many days too late to 
join Soult before April 6th, the date on which Badajoz fell. 

Summing up the whole operation, we must conclude that 
Wellington's plan, which depended for its efficacy on the slow- 
ness with which the French always received information, and 
the difficulty which they always experienced in concentrating 
and feeding large bodies of troops in winter or early spring, 
was bound to be successful, unless an improbable conjunction 
of chances had occurred. If Marmont and Soult had both 
taken the alarm at the earliest possible moment, and had each 
marched with the strongest possible field army, Soult with the 
25,000 men that he actually collected, Marmont with the 
three divisions that lay on the Tagus on March 1st, and three 
more from Castile , they might have met east of Merida some- 
where about the last days of March. In that case their united 
strength would have been from 50,000 to 55,000 men : Welling- 
ton had as many, so that he would not have been bound down 
to the mere defensive policy that he took up on the Caya in 
June-July 1811, when his numbers were decidedly less than 
now. But the chance that both Marmont and Soult would do 
the right thing in the shortest possible time was unlikely. 
They would have had terrible difficulties from the torrential 
rains that prevailed in the last ten days of March, and the 
consequent badness of the roads. Marmont's (if not Soult's) 
food-problem would have been a hard one, as he himself shows i 
in several of his letters. Soult got his first definite alarm on j 

1 More probably he would have brought only two divisions from north of 
the mountains, as he had to leave Bonnet to look after the Asturians, and I 
Souham's single division would hardly have sufficed to contain the Galicians, 
the Portuguese, and the Guerrilleros. 


March 11th : Marmont could hardly move till he had learnt 
that Wellington had started for Estremadura in person : till 
this was certain, he could not be sure that the main body of the 
Anglo-Portuguese army was not still behind the Agueda. 
WVllington only left Freneda on March 5th, and Marmont did 
not know of his departure till some days later. If the two 
marshals had each issued prompt concentration orders on 
March 11, it still remains very doubtful if they would have met 
in time to foil Wellington's object. As a matter of fact Soult 
(as we have seen) delayed for nine days before he determined 
to concentrate his field-force and march on Badajoz, and this 
lateness would have wrecked the combination, even if Marmont 
had been more ready than his colleague. 

Still there was some chance that the armies might have joined, 
if Napoleon had not intervened with his misguided refusal to 
allow Marmont to keep three divisions in the valley of the 
Tagus or to 4 worry about affairs that did not concern him.' 
Wellington could not know of these orders : hence came his 
anxieties, and his determination to hurry the siege of Badajoz 
to a conclusion at the earliest possible date. He was never — as 
it turned out — in serious danger, but he could not possibly be 
aware of the fact that Marmont was fettered by his instructions. 
It was only the gradual accumulation of reports proving that 
the Army of Portugal was moving against Ciudad Rodrigo, 
and not on Almaraz, that finally gave him comparative ease of 
mind with regard to the situation. As to Soult, he somewhat 
over-estimated his force, taking it at 30,000 or even 35,000 men 
rather than the real 25,000 : this was, no doubt, the reason 
why he resolved to fight with his ' covering army ' ranged on 
the Albuera position, and not farther forward. If he had known 
that on April 1 Soult had only 13,000 men at Monasterio, and 
was still separated from Drouet, he might possibly have been 
more enterprising. 

No signs of Marmont's arrival being visible, Wellington could 
afford to contemplate with great equanimity Soult's position 
at Villafranca on April 7th. If the Marshal moved forward he 
would be beaten — but it was almost certain that he would 
move back at once, for, as it will be remembered, precautions 
had been taken to give him an alarming distraction in his 



rear, by means of the operations of Penne Villemur and 
Ballasteros \ This combination worked with perfect success, 
far more accurately than Blake's similar raid on Seville had 
done in June 1811. Ballasteros, it is true, did much less than 
was in his power. He started from his refuge under the guns 
of Gibraltar, passed down from the Ronda mountains, and 
reached Utrera, in the plain of the Guadalquivir less than 
twenty miles from Seville, on April 4. But he then swerved 
away, having done more to alarm than to hurt the French, 
though he had a force of 10,000 infantry and 800 horse 2 , 
sufficient to have put Seville in serious peril. But Penne 
Villemur and Morillo, though they had not half the numbers 
of Ballasteros, accomplished all that Wellington required : 
having slipped into the Condado de Niebla almost unobserved, 
they pushed rapidly eastward, and occupied San Lucar la 
Mayor, only twelve miles from Seville, on April 4, the same dayl 
that Ballasteros appeared at Utrera. Their cavalry pushed up; 
so boldly toward the suburbs that they had to be driven off 
by cannon-shot from the tete-de-pont at the bridge of Triana 
General Rignoux, governor of Seville, had a very motley and 
insufficient garrison, as Wellington had calculated when he 
sent Penne Villemur forth. The only organized units were 
a battalion of ' Swiss ' Juramentados — really adventurers of all 
nations — and a regiment of Spanish horse, making 1,500 mer 
altogether : the rest consisted of convalescents and weakly mer 
belonging to the regiments in the Cadiz Lines, and of 600 dis 
mounted dragoons. These made up some 2,000 men more, bul 
many were not fit to bear arms. In addition there were som< 
companies of the recently raised ' National Guards.' Th 
enormous size of Seville, and the weakness of its old wall, com 
pelled Rignoux to concentrate his force in the fortified Cartuj 
convent, leaving only small posts at the gates and the bridge 
He sent at once, as Wellington had hoped, pressing appeals t 
Soult, saying that he was beset by 14,000 men, and that th 
citizens would probably rise and let in the enemy. 

On the 6th Ballasteros received false news that Conroux wa 

1 See above, p. 229. 

2 Infantry divisions of Cruz Murgeon (5,400 men) and the Prince c 
Anglona (4,300 men) and five squadrons of horse, besides irregulars. 


marching against him with the troops from the Cadiz Lines, 
and drew back into the mountains. It is said that he was 
wilfully deceived by persons in the French interest ; at any 
rate he must have been badly served by his cavalry and intelli- 
gence officers, who ought to have been able to tell him that there 
was no foundation for the report. Penne and Morillo, however, 
though disappointed at failing to meet their colleague's army, 
made a great parade of their small force under the walls of 
Seville, and skirmished with the French at the bridge-head 
of Triana, and under the walls of the Cartuja, so boldly that 
Rignoux expected a serious attack. They could only have 
accomplished something more profitable if the people of Seville 
had risen, but no disturbance took place. After remaining in 
front of the place all the 7th and 8th of April, they disappeared 
on the 9th, having received news of the fall of Badajoz, and 
drawn the correct deduction that Soult would turn back to 
hunt them when freed from his other task. Wellington, indeed, 
had written to give them warning to that effect on the very 
morning that they retired x : but they anticipated the danger, 
and were safely behind the Rio Tinto when Soult turned up 
in hot haste at Seville on the 11th, after four days of exhausting 
forced marches. 

The Marshal had left the two divisions of Drouet and Daricau 
with Perreymond's cavalry in Estremadura, to act as an observing 
force, and had marched with his remaining 13,000 men to save 
Seville, which owing to Ballasteros's timidity had never been 
in any real danger. But the Spanish diversion had nevertheless 
had precisely the effect that Wellington had expected and 
desired. During Soult's short absence of twelve days great 
part of the open country of Andalusia had fallen out of his con- 
trol, the communications with La Mancha and King Joseph had 
been cut off, and the guerrilleros had blockaded all the smaller 
French posts. The hold of the invaders upon the kingdom 
was never so secure as it had been before the fall of Badajoz. 

Ballasteros, after his fiasco in front of Seville, made two 

fruitless attempts against isolated French garrisons. He failed 

at the Castle of Zahara on April 11th. One of his columns 

in an assault on Osuna two days later got into the town and 

1 Wellington to Col. Austin from Badajoz, April 9. 



killed or captured 60 of the defenders, but failed to take the 
citadel, where the remainder defended themselves till Pierre 
Soult was reported to be at hand, and the Spaniards withdrew \ 
He ended his campaign of raids, however, with a more successful 
stroke. Hearing that the brigadier Rey, with three battalions 
and some dragoons, was marching from Malaga to relieve the 
garrison of Ronda, he fell upon him at Alhaurin on the 14th 
with his main body, encompassed him with fourfold strength, 
and drove him in rout back to Malaga, capturing his two guns 
and inflicting more than 200 casualties upon him 2 . Ballasteros 
then hoped to seize on Malaga, where the French were much 
alarmed, and prepared to shut themselves up in the citadel of 
Gibalfaro. But the news that Pierre Soult and Conroux were 
approaching with a strong column caused the Spaniards to 
retire to the mountains above Gibraltar [April 19th]. Thus 
the operations in Andalusia, which had opened with Soult's 
march to Badajoz, came to an end, with no ruinous disaster 
to the French, but with a diminution of their prestige, and 
a distinct weakening of their hold on the kingdom. In the 
Condado de Niebla Soult made no attempt to reoccupy losti 
ground, and east of Granada his line of posts had recoiled i 
considerably on the Murcian side : Baza and Ubeda had been! 
abandoned for good. It was but a vain boast when the Marshal 
wrote to Berthier that, after he had set all things to rights in 
the central parts of Andalusia, he intended to organize a generall 
concentration to crush Ballasteros, and that his next task 
would be to lay siege for a second time to Tarifa, ' the loss of 
which place would be more injurious to the English and the 
Insurgents than that of Alicante, or even that of Badajoz— I 
against which last-named fortress I ought to make no attack 

1 Napier, I know not on what authority, says that Osuna was only 
defended by * Juramentados ' who made a gallant resistance against theii 
own countrymen. But Soult, in a letter to Berthier dated April 21 fron 
Seville, says that Osuna was held by some companies of the 43rd Line and 
a detachment of the 21st Dragoons. He cannot be wrong. Moreover 
the 43rd shows losses at Osuna, April 13, in Martinien's tables. 

2 Martinien's tables show three officers killed and nine wounded at ' Alor; 
near Malaga ' on this date, in the 43rd, 58th Line, and 21st Dragoons 
Soult's dispatch makes out that only Rey's advanced guard unde 
Maransin was cut up, and that the main body defeated the Spaniards 
If so, why did they retreat on Malaga ? 


till I shall have finished matters on the Tarifa side, and so have 
nothing to fear on my left flank V 

To complete the survey of the fortunes of the Army of the 
South in April, it only remains that we should mention the 
doings of Drouet, now left once more with his two old divisions 
to form the 4 corps of observation ' opposite the Anglo-Portu- 
guese. Soult during his retreat had dropped his lieutenant 
at Llerena, with orders to give back on Seville without fighting 
any serious action, if the enemy should pursue him in force, 
but if he were left alone to hold his ground, push his cavalry 
forward, and keep a strong detachment as near the Upper 
Guadiana as possible. For only by placing troops at Cam- 
panario, Medellin, and (if possible) Merida, could communication 
be kept up via Truxillo and Almaraz with the Army of Portugal. 
. As it turned out, Drouet was not to be permitted to occupy 
such a forward position as Soult would have liked. He was 
closely followed by Stapleton Cotton, with Le Marchant's and 
! Slade's heavy and Ponsonby's 2 light cavalry brigades, who 
brought his rearguard to action at Villagarcia outside Llerena 
on April 11th. This was a considerable fight. Drouet's horse 
| was in position to cover the retirement of his infantry, with 
i Lallemand's dragoons in first line, and Perreymond's hussars 
i and chasseurs in support. Lallemand evidently thought that 
I he had only Ponsonby's brigade in front of him, as Le Marchant's 
I was coming up by a side-road covered by hills, and Slade's was 
| far out of sight to the rear. Accordingly he accepted battle on 
an equal front, each side having three regiments in line. But, 
just as the charge was delivered, the 5th Dragoon Guards, 
Le Marchant's leading regiment, came on the ground from the 
right, and, rapidly deploying, took the French line in flank and 
completely rolled it up 3 . The enemy went to the rear in 

1 Soult to Berthier from Seville, April 17, 1812. 
This officer was in command of the brigade of Anson, then absent on 
leave, which at this time consisted of the 12th, 14th, and 16th Light 

There is a good account of all this in the admirable diary of Tomlinson 
of the 16th, which I so often have had to cite. He has an interesting note 
that the 16th in their charge found a stone wall in their way, and that the 
whole regiment took it in their stride, and continued their advance in 
perfect order (p. 150). 


confusion, and the pursuit was continued till, half-way between 
Villagarcia and Llerena, the French rallied on their reserve 
(2nd Hussars) behind a broad ditch. Cotton, who had not let 
his men get out of hand, re-formed Anson's brigade and delivered 
a second successful charge, which drove the French in upon 
Drouet's infantry, which was in order of battle to the left of 
Llerena town. It was impossible to do more, as three cavalry 
brigades could not attack 12,000 men of all arms in a good 
position. But a few hours later the whole French corps was 
seen in retreat eastward : it retired to Berlanga and Azuaga on 
the watershed of the Sierra Morena, completely abandoning 

The French (outnumbered, if Slade's brigade be counted, but 
it was far to the rear and never put in line) lost 53 killed and 
wounded and 4 officers and 132 rank and file taken prisoners. 
Cotton's casualties were 14 killed and 2 officers and 35 men 
wounded : he insisted that his success would have been much 
greater if Ponsonby had held back a little longer, till the whole of 
Le Marchant's squadrons came on the field — Lallemand would 
then have been cut off from Llerena and his line of retreat, and 
the greater part of his brigade ought to have been captured, 
though the light cavalry in the second line might have got off « 
However, the affair was very creditable to all concerned. 

Hill's infantry did not follow the retreating French, and had 
halted about Almendralejo and Villafranca, only the cavalry! 
having gone on in pursuit to Llerena. The rest of the Anglo-! 
Portuguese army was already in movement for the North, as! 
Wellington had given up the idea, which had somewhat tempted 
him at first, of pursuing Soult to Seville and trying to upset the 1 
whole fabric of French power in Andalusia. Of this more in its 1 
due place. Suffice it to say here that he fell back on his old 1 
partition of forces, leaving Hill in Estremadura as his ' corps 
of observation ', with precisely the same force that he had beer 

1 Soult only acknowledges a loss of three officers and about 110 men in hit 
dispatch of April 21 to Berthier, adding the ridiculous statement that th< 
British had 100 killed and many more wounded, and that the 5th Dragooi 
Guards had been practically destroyed. Martinien's tables show fou, 
French officers wounded and one killed, but (of course) take no accoun 
of unwounded prisoners. The British lost two missing, men who hat 
ridden ahead in the pursuit into the French infantry. 


given in 1811, save that one British cavalry brigade (that of 
Slade) was added. The rest of the corps consisted of the 
2nd Division, Hamilton's two Portuguese brigades, Long's 
British and John Campbell's Portuguese horse \ The whole 
amounted to about 14,000 men, sufficient not only to hold 
Drouet in check, but also to keep an eye upon the French troops 
in the valley of the Tagus, against whom Wellington was now 
meditating a raid of the sort that he had already sketched out 
in his correspondence with Hill in February. 

So much for the Army of Andalusia and its fortunes in 
April 1812. We must now turn to those of Marmont and the 
Army of Portugal during the same critical weeks. 

The Duke of Ragusa, as it will be remembered, had been 
caught at Salamanca, on March 27th, by Napoleon's dispatch 
giving him an over-late option of detaching troops to the relief 
of Badajoz. But being already committed to the invasion of 
Portugal prescribed by the Emperor's earlier letters, and 
having his field-force and his magazines disposed for that 
project, he had resolved to proceed with it, though he had no 
great belief in the results that would follow from his taking the 
offensive 2 . As he informed his master, there was nothing at 
which he could strike effectively. c It would seem that His 
Majesty thinks that Lord Wellington has magazines close 
behind the frontier of northern Portugal. Not so. These 
magazines are at Abrantes, or in Estremadura. His hospitals 
are at Lisbon, Castello Branco, and Abrantes. There is nothing 
of any importance to him on the Coa.' And how was Almeida 
or Ciudad Rodrigo to be assailed in such a way as to cause 
Wellington any disquietude, when the Army of Portugal had 
not a single heavy gun left ? ' General Dorsenne had the happy 
idea of leaving in Rodrigo, a fortress of inferior character on the 
front of our line, the whole siege-train prepared for this army 
at great expense, so that new guns of large calibre must actually 
be brought up from France.' 

1 This was the brigade formerly under Barbacena,4th and 10th regiments. 

a Mes dispositions etant faites pour une marche de quinze jours sur 
l'Agueda, deja commencee, je continue ce mouvement, sans cependant 
(je le repete) avoir une tres grande confiance dans les resultats qu'il doit 
donner.' Marmont to Berthier, March 27. 


Marmont's striking force was not so large as he would have 
wished. Bonnet was, by the Emperor's orders, beginning his 
advance for the reoccupation of the Asturias. Foy was in the 
valley of the Tagus. Souham had to be left on the Esla, to 
observe the Army of Galicia. This left five divisions for active 
operations : but the Marshal came to the conclusion that he 
must split up one more (Ferey's) to hold Valladolid, Salamanca, 
Zamora, Toro, Avila, Benavente, and other places, which in an 
elaborate calculation sent to Berthier he showed to require 
4,910 men for their garrisons. He therefore marched with 
four infantry divisions only [Clausel, Maucune, Sarrut, Brennier] 
and 1,500 light cavalry, about 25,000 men in all : his division of 
dragoons was left behind in Leon, to keep open communication 
between his various garrisons. A rather illusory help was 
sought by sending to Foy, who then lay at Almaraz, orders to 
the effect that he might push a detachment to Plasencia, and 
give out that he was about to join the main army by the pass 
of Perales. But Foy's real concern, as he was told, was to 
keep up communication with the Army of the South, and 
to give any help that was possible on the side of Truxillo, if 
(by some improbable chance) the Army of the Centre should 
be able to lend him the aid of any appreciable number of 

On the 30th the French army appeared in front of Rodrigo, 
and Carlos de Espana, leaving 3,000 men as garrison there, 
under General Vives, retired with the small remainder of his 
division towards the Portuguese frontier. He was pursued and 
molested by the enemy's cavalry, not having been covered or 
assisted, as Wellington had directed, by Victor Alten's regi- 
ment of German Hussars. That officer, neglecting his orders 
in the most flagrant fashion, did not retire slowly and in a 
fighting posture, when the French drove in his line of vedettes 
in front of Rodrigo, but collected his regiment and rode hard 
for Castello Branco, without concerning himself in the least as 
to the safety of the Spanish and Portuguese forces in his 
neighbourhood, or the procuring of intelligence as to the 
strength and the purpose of the French army. His carelessness 
or shirking of responsibility, which was to be displayed in still 
worse form as the campaign went on, drew on him such a sharp 


and bitter rebuke from Wellington that it is a wonder that he 
was not sent home forthwith \ 

Marmont looked at Rodrigo, but refused to attempt anything 
against it, though he was informed that the garrison was 
undisciplined and dispirited. Without siege artillery he held 
that it was useless to attack the place. After sending in a formal 
summons to Vives (who gave the proper negative answer in 
round terms), and throwing into the streets a few shells from 
the howitzers attached to his field-batteries, he told off Bren- 
nier's division to blockade Rodrigo, as also to guard a flying 
bridge which he cast across the Agueda at La Caridad, a few 
miles up-stream. 

His next move was to send forward Clausel with two divisions 
to investigate the state of Almeida. He had heard that its 
walls were unfinished, and thought that there might be some 
chance of executing a coup-de-main against it. The general, 
however, came back next day, reporting that he thought the 
scheme impossible. He had apparently been deterred from 
pressing in upon the place both by the defiant attitude of the 
governor, Le Mesurier, whose outposts skirmished outside the 
walls for some time before allowing themselves to be driven in, 
and still more by the sight of a considerable force of Portuguese 
troops encamped close to the town on the other side of the Coa. 
This was Trant's militia, the first detachment that had got to the 
front of the various bodies of troops which Wellington had told 
off for the defence of the Beira. They had taken up the strong 
position behind the bridge of the Coa, which Craufurd had so 
obstinately defended against Ney in July 1810. 

1 Wellington to V. Alten, April 18, ' You were desired " not to be in a 
hurry," to give them (Espafia and General Baccelar) your countenance 
so far as might be in your power, and to tell them that you were left in the 
front for a particular object. ... I beg you to observe that if you had 
assembled the 1st Hussars at Pastores on March 30 and April 1, the Agueda 
being then scarcely fordable for cavalry, you could have kept open the 
communications between Almeida and Ciudad Rodrigo. . . . You wrote on 
the seventh from Castello Branco that you knew nothing about the enemy ! 
and instead of receiving from you (as I had expected) a daily account of 
their operations, you knew nothing, and, from the way in which you made 
your march, all those were driven off the road who might have given me 
intelligence, and were destined to keep up the communication between 
me and Carlos de Espafia. ' 


On the alarm being given on March 29th that Marmont was 
marching against that province, and not against Galicia or the 
Tras-os-Montes, Wellington's orders suiting that contingency 
were carried out with more or less accuracy. Silveira, with the 
Tras-os-Montes militia and his small body of regular cavalry, 
began to move on Lamego, where Baccelar, the chief commander 
in the North, had concentrated the regiments from the Oporto 
region and the Beira Alta, even before Marmont had left 
Salamanca. General Abadia had been requested to press forward 
against the French on the Esla, so as to threaten the flank and 
rear of the invading army. He did not accomplish much, being 
convinced that the forces left opposite him were too strong to 
be lightly meddled with. But he directed a raid to be made 
from the Western Asturias towards the city of Leon, and the 
division at Puebla de Senabria threatened Benavente. Both 
movements were executed too late to be of any importance in 
affecting the course of the campaign. 

Baccelar had been ordered to avoid committing himself to 
a general action with any large body of the enemy, but to show 
such a mass of troops concentrated that Marmont would have 
to keep his main body together, and to act cautiously on the 
offensive. His primary duty was to cover, if possible, the large 
magazines at Sao Joao de Pesqueira and Lamego on the Douro. 
and the smaller ones at Villa da Ponte, Pinhel, and Celorico. Tc 
these Wellington attached much importance, as they were the 
intermediate depots from which his army drew its sustenance! 
when it was on the northern frontier, and he knew that he 
would be requiring them again ere many weeks had passed 
As long as Marmont remained near Almeida, it was necessarj 
to keep a force as far forward as possible, behind the ver) 
defensible line of the Coa, and Trant was advanced for thi* 
purpose, though he was directed not to commit himself. His 
presence so close to Almeida was very valuable, as he woulc 
have to be driven off before the Marshal formally invested th( 
place. Le Mesurier, the governor, was not at all comfortably 
as to his position : though he had a proportion of Britisl 
artillery left with him, the whole of the infantry of the garrisoi 
consisted of Beira militia, who had no experience under arms 
On taking over charge of the place, on March 18, the governo 


had complained that though the walls were in a sufficient state 
of repair, and there were plenty of guns forthcoming, yet few 
or none of them were mounted ready for service, the powder 
magazines were insufficiently sheltered, and many details of 
fortification (palisades, platforms, &c.) had to be completed in 
a hurry 1 . However, the place looked so sound for defence 
when Clausel reconnoitred it, that — as we have seen — he 
made no attempt to invest it, and promptly withdrew, report- 
ing to his chief that Almeida was not to be taken by a coup- 

Marmont then made the move which Wellington had most 
desired, and which in his dispatch to Baccelar he had specified 
as the happiest thing that could come about. Instead of 
sitting down before Almeida or Ciudad Rodrigo, or making 
a push against the depots on the Douro, he turned southward 
towards the Lower Beira, and (leaving Brennier behind to 
guard communications) marched with three divisions to 
Sabugal via Fuente Guinaldo. This policy could have no 
great results — the Marshal might ravage the country-side, but 
such a movement with such a force could not possibly alarm 
Wellington overmuch, or draw him away from the siege of 
Badajoz if he were determined to persevere in it. There was 
nothing of importance to him in central Beira — only minor 
depots at Celorico and Castello Branco, much less valuable than 
the larger ones at Lamego and Sao Joao de Pesqueira on the 
Douro. ' He can do no more,' as an acute observer on the 
Portuguese staff remarked, * than drive off some cattle, burn 
some cottages, and ruin a few wretched peasants V For the 
country about the sources of the Zezere and round Castello 
Branco is one of the most thinly peopled districts of 

To meet Marmont's southern move Baccelar brought up 
Trant's and Wilson's militia by a parallel march to Guarda, 
while Le Cor, with the two regiments of the Beira Baixa, held 
on at Castello Branco till he should be evicted from it. To 

For complaints by Le Mesurier as to the defects of the place when he 
took over charge of it on March 18, see his letter of the 28th of the same 
month, to Wellington, in the Appendix to Napier, iv. pp. 450-1. 

The observation comes from D' Urban' s unpublished Journal. 


Wellington's intense disgust \ Victor Alten, whose orders 
directed him to fall back no farther than that town, continued 
his precipitate retreat with the German Hussars to the bridge of 
Villa Velha on the Tagus, and began to take measures to destroy 
that all-important link of communications between north and 
south. Fortunately he was stopped before he had done the 
damage. The bridge was only taken over to the south bank, 
not committed to the flames. 

Halting at Sabugal, on April 8th, Marmont sent out flying 
columns, which ravaged the country-side as far as Penamacor, 
Fundao, and Covilhao, and dispatched Clausel with a whole 
division against Castello Branco, the one important place in the 
whole region. Le Cor evacuated it on April 12th, after burning 
such of the magazines as could not be removed in haste : and 
Clausel — who occupied it for two days — did not therefore get 
possession of the stores of food which his chief had hoped to find 
there. In revenge the town and the small proportion of its in- 
habitants who did not take to the hills were badly maltreated : 
many buildings, including the bishop's palace, were burnt. 

Hearing that Marmont had dispersed the larger portion of 
his army with flying columns, and was lying at Sabugal, on the 
12th, with only a few thousand men, Trant conceived the rash 
idea that it would be possible to surprise him, at his head- 
quarters, by a night march of his own and Wilson's combined 
divisions from Guarda. The distance was about twenty miles 
over mountain roads, and the scheme must have led to disaster, 
for — contrary to the information which the militia generals 
had gathered — the Marshal's concentrated main body was still 
stronger than their own, despite of all his detachments 2 . 

1 Wellington to Alten, Dispatches, ix. p. 69. 'You were positively ordered 
by your instructions to go to Castello Branco and no farther. The reason; 
for this instruction was obvious. First the militia of Lower Beira would 
be there in the case supposed [that of Marmont' s making an invasion soutli 
of the Douro], and they were there. Secondly, as soon as I should be 
informed of the enemy's approach to the Coa, it would be necessary for me 
to assemble a force at Castello Branco — of which the foundation would be 
the 1st Hussars K.G.L. Yet notwithstanding my orders you marched fron 
Castello Branco on the 8th, and crossed the Tagus on the 9th. Til 
I received your letter I did not conceive it possible that you could so fa: 
disregard your instructions.' 

2 I cannot resist quoting here, as an example of Trant's over-daring ane 


1 You could not have succeeded in your attempt, and you would 
have lost your division and that of General Wilson V wrote 
Wellington to Trant, when the scheme and its failure were 
reported to him a week later. It was fortunately never tried, 
owing to Baccelar's having made objections to his subordi- 
nate's hare-brained plan. 

But the best comment on the enterprise is that on the very 
night (April 13-14) which Trant had fixed for his march, he 
was himself surprised by Marmont, so bad had been his arrange- 
ments for watching the country-side. The Marshal had learnt 
that there was an accumulation of militia at Guarda threatening 
his flank, and resolved to give it a lesson. He started with 

j a brigade each from Sarrut's and Maucune's divisions and five 
squadrons of light cavalry — about 7,000 men — and was, at 
dawn, on the 14th, at the foot of the hill of Guarda, where he 

! had the good luck to cut off all Trant's outposts without their 
firing a shot — so badly did the militia keep their look-out. 
1 Had he only dashed headlong into the town he might have 
captured Wilson's and my divisions without losing probably 
a single man,' wrote Trant. But the ascent into Guarda was 
long and steep, and Marmont, who had only cavalry up, did 
not guess how careless were his adversaries. He took proper 
military precautions and waited for his infantry : meanwhile 
the Portuguese were roused, almost by chance as it seems. 
* My distrust of the militia with regard to the execution of 
precautions,' continues Trant, 4 had induced me at all times to 
have a drummer at my bedroom door, in readiness to beat to 

reckless temperament, his letter to Wilson, urging him to co-operate in 
the raid, which was lent me by Wilson's representative of to-day : — 

Guarda, 11th April, 1812. 

My dear Wilson, — I arrived last night. Hasten up your division : 
there never was a finer opportunity of destroying a French corps, in other 
words and in my opinion, their 2nd Division : but I have no certainty of 
what force is the enemy. At any rate send me your squadron of cavalry, or 
even twenty dragoons. lam very ill-treated by Baccelar in regard to cavalry. 
Push on yourself personally. You know how happy I shall be in having 
you once more as the partner of my operations. Order up everything you 
can from Celorico to eat : here there is nothing. — Yrs. N. T. 

The French 2nd Division was Clausel's, as it chanced, the one that was 
precisely not at Sabugal, but executing the raid on Castello Branco. 

1 Wellington to Trant, Dispatches, ix. p. 73. 


arms. This was most fortunately the case on the night of 
April 13, 1812, for the first intimation that I had of the enemy 
being near at hand was given me by my servant, on bringing 
me my coffee at daybreak on the 14th. He said that there was 
such a report in the street, and that the soldiers were assembling 
at the alarm rendezvous. I instantly beat to arms, and the 
beat being as instantly taken up by every drummer in the 
place, Marmont, who was at that very moment with his 
cavalry at the entrance of the town, held back. I was myself 
the first man out of the town, and he was not then 400 yards 
away V 

The Marshal, in his account of the affair, says that the 
Portuguese formed up on the heights by the town, apparently 
ready to fight, but drew off rapidly so soon as he had prepared 
for a regular attack on the position. Wise not quite in time 
the two militia generals sent their men at a trot down the steep 
road at the back of the place, with the single troop of regulai 
dragoons that they possessed bringing up the rear. It had now 
begun to rain in torrents, and Trant and Wilson having obtained 
two or three miles start, and being able to see no distance 
owing to the downpour, thought that they had got off safe 
This was not the case : Marmont realized that his infantrj 
could not catch them, but seeing their hurry and disordei 
ordered his cavalry — his own escort-squadron and the 13tl 
Chasseurs — to pursue and charge the rearguard of the retreating 
column. They overtook it by the bridge of Faya, three mile: 
outside Guarda, where the road to Celorico descends on a steej 
slope to cross the river. The leading French squadron scatterec 
the forty dragoons at the tail of Trant's division, and rode on 
mixed with them, against the rearguard battalion (that o 
Oporto). The militiamen, startled and caught utterly b? 
surprise, tried to form across the road and to open fire : bu 
the rain had damped their cartridges, and hardly a muske 
gave fire. Thereupon the battalion went to pieces, the mei 
nearest the French throwing down their guns and asking fo 
quarter, while those behind scattered uphill or downhill fron 
the road, seeking safety on the steep slopes. The charge swep 
downhill on to the battalion of Aveiro, and the other successiv 
1 Narrative of Trant in Napier's Appendix to vol. iv. p. 451. 


units of the Oporto brigade, which broke up in confusion. Five 
of their six colours were taken, and 1,500 prisoners were cut off, 
while some tumbled into the Mondego and were drowned, by 
losing their footing on the steep hillside. Hardly a Frenchman 
fell, and not very many Portuguese, for the chasseurs, rinding 
that they had to deal with helpless militiamen who made no 
resistance, were sparing with the sabre l . The greater part of 
the prisoners were allowed, in contempt, to make off, and only 
a few hundred and the five flags were brought back to Marmont 
at Guarda. The pursuit did not penetrate so far as Wilson's 
division, which got across the Mondego while Trant's was being 
routed, and formed up behind the narrow bridge, where the 
chasseurs, being a trifling force of 400 men, did not think fit 
to attack them. The French infantry had marched over twenty 
miles already that day, and were dead beat : Marmont did not 
send them down from Guarda to pursue, in spite of the brilliant 
success of his cavalry. 

The day after the ' Rout of Guarda ' Marmont pushed an 
advanced guard to Lagiosa, half-way to Celorico, where Trant 
and Wilson had taken refuge, with their ranks short of some 
2,000 men scattered in the hills. Thereupon the militia 
generals set fire to the stores, and evacuated Celorico, falling 
back into the hills towards Trancoso. But finding that the 
French were not coming on, they halted ; and when they 
ascertained that the enemy was actually returning to Guarda, 
they came back, extinguished the fires, and rescued great part 
of the magazines. Marmont's unexpected forbearance was 
caused by the fact that the news of the fall of Badajoz reached 
him on the 15th, along with a report from Clausel (who had 
just evacuated Castello Branco) that Wellington's army had 

1 There is an account of this rout from the French side in the Memoires 
of Parquin, of the 13th Chasseurs, an officer mentioned in Marmont's 
dispatch as having taken one of the flags. Parquin calls it that of the 
regiment of Emilias. There was no such corps : those which lost 
standards were Aveiro, Oliveira, and Penafiel. A lengthy account may 
be found also in Beresford's Or dens do Dia for May 7, where blame and 
praise are carefully distributed, and the curious order is made that the 
disgraced regiments are to leave their surviving flags at home, till they 
have washed out the stain on their honour by good service in the 


already started northward, and that its advanced guard was 
across the Tagus at Villa Velha. 

This was startling, nay appalling, intelligence. Badajoz had 
been reckoned good for a much longer resistance, and the news 
had come so slowly — it had taken nine days to reach Marmont — 
that it was possible that the British army was already in 
a position to cut off his expeditionary force from its base on 
the Agueda. Wherefore Marmont hastily evacuated Guarda, 
and was back at Sabugal by the 16th, where Clausel and the 
other dispersed fractions of his army joined him. Here he 
regarded himself as reasonably safe, but determined to retire 
behind the Spanish frontier ere long, raising the blockade of 
Ciudad Rodrigo. ' My troops,' he wrote to Berthier on that 
day, 4 have used up the little food to be gathered between the 
Tagus and the Zezere ; and now that the enemy is on the Tagus 
I cannot possibly remain on the Mondego, as I should be leaving 
him on my line of communications. I shall fall back to the 
right bank of the Agueda. If the enemy resolves to pursue me 
thither I shall fight him. If not I shall fall back on Salamanca, 
because of the absolute impossibility of feeding an army 
between the Agueda and the Tormes.' 

Marmont remained at Sabugal and its neighbourhood for 
nearly a week — by the 22nd he had drawn back a few miles to 
Fuente Guinaldo — with about 20,000 men. His position was 
more dangerous than he knew ; for on the 18th the heavy rains, 
which began on the day of the combat of Guarda, broke his 
bridge over the Agueda at La Caridad, so that he was cut off 
from Brennier and from Salamanca. He was under the impres- 
sion that Wellington had only brought up a couple of divisions! 
against him, and that these were still south of Castello Branco \| 

1 Marmont to Berthier : Fuente Guinaldo, April 22. ' Les rapports des 
prisonniers sont que trois divisions de l'armee anglaise reviennent sur le 
Coa. Mais cette nouvelle ayant ete donnee avec affectation par les parle 
mentaires, et n'ayant vu jamais autre chose que le scul l er dc Hussardsj 
Allemands, qui etait precedemment sur cette rive, et point d'infantcric, ni 
ricn qui annonce la presence d'un corps dc troupes, je suis autorise a croirc 
que c'est un bruit qu'on a fait courir a dessein, et qu'il n'y a pas d' Anglais er 
presence. Je suis a peu pres certain qu'il a parti de Portalegre deu>j 
divisions, qui se sont portees a Villa Velha : mais il me parait evidenl 
qu'elles ne se sont beaucoup eloignees du Tage.' The actual situation weu 
1st Hussars K.G.L. Quadraseyes in front of Sabugal : Light Division 


i whereas as a matter of fact seven had marched ; and on the 
day that he wrote this incautious estimate Wellington's head- 
I quarters were at Penamacor, the Light and 3rd Divisions were 
'closing in on Sabugal, the 4th and 5th were a full march north 
|of Castello Branco, and the 1st, 6th, and 7th were at Losa, quite 
| close to that city. Thirty-six hours more of delay would have 
placed Marmont in the terrible position of finding himself with 
a broken bridge behind him, and 40,000 enemies closing in 
upon his front and flank. 

To explain the situation, Wellington's movements after the 
capture of Badajoz must now be detailed. It had been his hope, 
though not his expectation, that Soult might have remained at 
Villafranca after hearing of the disaster of the 6th April ; in 
'this case he had intended to fall upon him with every available 
man, crush him by force of numbers, and then follow up his 
routed army into Andalusia, where the whole fabric of French 
occupation must have crumpled up. But Soult wisely retreated 
at a sharp pace ; and the idea of following him as far as Seville, 
there to find him reinforced for a general action by all the 
troops from the Cadiz Lines and Granada, was not so tempting 
as that of bringing him to battle in Estremadura. On the day 
after the fall of Badajoz Wellington formulated his intentions 
sin a letter to Lord Liverpool. 4 It would be very desirable 
Ithat I should have it in my power to strike a blow against 
jMarshal Soult, before he could be reinforced. . . . But it is not 
very probable that he will risk an action in the province of 
jEstremadura, which it would not be difficult for him to avoid ; 
land it is necessary for him that he should return to Andalusia 
owing to the movements of General Ballasteros and the Conde 
de Penne Villemur ... if he should retire into Andalusia I must 
return to Castille V 

The reason given by Wellington for his resolve to turn north 
again was that Carlos de Espana had informed him that Ciudad 
Rodrigo, though otherwise tenable enough, had only provisions 

Sabugal : 3rd Division, Sortelha : 4th Division, Pedrogao, 5th Division, 
klpedrinha ; 1st, 6th, 7th Divisions, Losa : Pack's Portuguese, Memoa. 
The map will show what a fearful situation Marmont would have been in 
jiiad he halted for another day. 
1 Wellington to Liverpool, April 7, Dispatches, ix. p. 43. 



for twenty-three days, partly from what Wellington called the 
general policy of ' Mariana ' x — of shiftless procrastination — 
partly from the definite single fact that a very large convoy 
provided from the British magazines on the Douro had been 
stopped at Almeida on March 30th. This, in Wellington's 
estimation, was the fault of Victor Alten, who, if he had held 
the outposts beyond the Agueda for a day longer, might havei 
covered the entry of the convoy into Ciudad Rodrigo 2 . Mar-! 
mont's operations on the Coa and the Agueda would have been! 
quite negligible from the strategic point of view but for thisj 
one fact. He might ravage as far as Guarda or Castello Brancc 
without doing any practical harm, but it could not be permitted! 
that he should starve Rodrigo into surrender : even allowing 
for a firm resistance by the garrison, and a judicious resort tc 
lessened rations, the place would be in danger from the thirc 
week of April onward. Wherefore, unless Marmont withdrev 
into Spain by the middle of the month, he must be forced to d< 
so, by the transference of the main body of the Anglo-Portuguese 
Army to the North. 

The Marshal, during the critical days following the fall c| 
Badajoz, showed no such intention. Indeed he advanced t| 
Sabugal on the 8th, seized Castello Branco on the 12th, an< 
executed his raid on Guarda upon the 13th-14th. Ignorant c 
the fall of Badajoz, he was naturally extending the sphere c 
his operations, under the belief that no serious force was in h;| 
front. While he was overrunning Beira Baixa, Ciudad Rodrig 
continued to be blockaded by Brennier, and its stores were no 
running very low. 

On April 11th 3 Wellington made up his mind that this stal' 
of things must be brought to an end, and he determined th; 
no mere detachment should march, but a force sufficient 1[ 

1 Wellington to Henry Wellesley, April 4, Dispatches, ix. p. 29. 

2 Wellington to Alten, April 18, Dispatches, ix. p. 68, ' I beg to observe thf 
if you had assembled the 1st Hussars at Pastores on the 30th March a 
1st April . . . you would have kept open the communication betwe? 
Almeida and Ciudad Rodrigo, and the convoy would probably have got ir' 
the latter place.' 

3 The date can be fixed from D'Urban's Journal : * Marmont lv> 
blockaded Rodrigo, reconnoitred Almeida, and has now made an inrcii 
as far as Fundao : all this obliges a movement toward him. April 11. 


overwhelm Marmont if he could be brought to action. The 
movement began with the march of the 11th Light Dragoons 
and Pack's and Bradford's Portuguese to Elvas on the afternoon 
of the 11th April, all being ordered to move on Arronches and 
Portalegre. On the 12th a larger force started off from the 
camps around Badajoz and on the Albuera position : the 3rd 
and Light Divisions moved (following Pack and Bradford) on 
•Portalegre via Arronches, the 4th and 5th, making a shorter 
move, to Campo Mayor on the same road, the 7th from Valverde 
to Elvas. The 1st and 6th under Graham, bringing up the rear, 
went off on the 13th from Valverde and Elvas northward. 
Orders were sent to Stapleton Cotton, then in pursuit of Drouet 
in southern Estremadura, to come with Anson's and Le 
Marchant's cavalry brigades to join the main army, leaving 
only Slade's and Long's to Hill. Bock's Heavy Dragoon brigade 
of the King's German Legion was also directed to take part in 
the general movement. 

Only Hill, with the troops that had served under him since 
the summer of 1811, plus one new cavalry brigade, was left 
behind in Estremadura to ' contain ' Drouet. It was highly 
unlikely that Soult would be heard of in that province, as he 
had his own troubles in Andalusia to keep him employed. 
(Indeed Wellington in his parting message to this trusty 
lieutenant told him that it was ' impossible ' that the enemy 
could assemble enough troops to incommode him at present, 
and explained that his chief duty would be to cover the repairing 
of Badajoz, into which three Portuguese line regiments x under 
Power, hitherto forming the garrisons of Elvas and Abrantes, 
were thrown, to hold it till Castanos should provide 3,000 
Spaniards for the purpose. 

The movement of the army marching against Marmont was 
rapid and continuous, though it might have been even more 
swift but for the fact that the whole long column had to pass 
the bridge of Villa Velha, the only passage of the Tagus that 
lay straight on the way to the Lower Beira : to send troops 
by Abrantes would have cost too much time. On the 16th the 
Light and 3rd Divisions crossed the bridge, on the 17th some 
oavalry and Pack's and Bradford's Portuguese, while the 4th, 
1 5th and 17th from Elvas, 22nd from Abrantes. 
U 2 


5th, and 6th Divisions were now close to the river at Castello de 
Vide and Alpahao, and only the 1st was rather to the rear at 
Portalegre \ Alten's German Hussars, picked up at Castello 
Branco on the 18th by the head of the column, were the onlyi 
cavalry which Wellington showed in his front. This was done; 
on principle : Marmont knew that this regiment was in his 
neighbourhood, and if it pressed in upon his outposts, it told 
him nothing as to the arrival of new troops opposite him. As we 
have already seen, when quoting one of his dispatches 2 , he drew 
the inference that Wellington intended, and so late as the 22nd 
believed that his adversary's main army was still behind the 
Tagus, and that at most two divisions had come up to Villa 
Velha — but probably no further. 

Steadily advancing, the column, with the 3rd and Light 
Divisions leading, reached Castello Branco on the 17th. They 
found that it had been reoccupied on the 15th by Alten's 
Hussars and Le Cor's militia ; but it was in a dreadful state oi 
dilapidation owing to the ravages of Clausel's troops during the 
two days of their flying visit. Clear information was receivec 
that Marmont was still at Sabugal, and his vedettes lay as fai 
south as Pedrogao. The British staff were in hopes that h< 
might be caught. 4 His ignorance (as we hope) of the real forc< 
in march against him may end in his destruction,' wrot< 
D' Urban to Charles Stewart on the 18th, ' for he has put th< 
Agueda in his rear, which the late rains have made impassable 
his situation is very critical. If he discovers his error at once 
he may get off by his left down the Perales road, and so read 
Plasencia : but if he does not, and waits to be driven out of th 
ground he holds, I don't see how he is to get away. Lor< 
Wellington will be all closed up by the 21st ; meanwhile h 
shows little to his front, and avoids giving serious alarm : th 
fairest hopes may be entertained of a decisive blow V 

It looked indeed as if Marmont was waiting over-long : 
the 17th-18th his exploring parties came as far south as Idanhj 
Nova, where by an ill chance they captured Wellington's mos 
famous intelligence-officer, Major Colquhoun Grant, who ther 

1 All these movements are taken from the elaborate tables in D' Urban 
Journal for these days. 

a See above, p. 288. 3 Letter in the D'Urban Papers. 


commenced that extraordinary series of adventures which are 
told in detail in the life of his brother-in-law, Dr. McGrigor, 
Wellington's chief medical officer. He escaped at Bayonne, 
\ and returned to England via Paris and the boat of a Breton 
fisherman \ 

The rear of the column had dropped behind somewhat, owing 
to the incessant rains which had set in from April 14th, and 
; which had broken Marmont's bridge four days later. Welling- 
ton had given the 4th Division leave to halt for a day, because 
of the state of the roads and the entire want of cover for the 
night in the desolate tract between Villa Velha and Abrantes 2 . 
It reached Castello Branco, however, on the 20th, on which day 
ionly (by some extraordinary mismanagement) Wellington got 
the tardy news of Trant's disaster at Guarda on the morning 
of the 14th. And this news was brought not by any official 
messenger, but by a fugitive ensign of militia, who garnished 
it with all manner of untrue additions — whereupon Beresford 
had him tried and shot, for deserting his troops and spreading 
false intelligence. Clearly Trant, Wilson, and Baccelar between 
them should have got the true narrative to head-quarters before 
six days had elapsed. 

The 21st April was the critical day of this campaign. Mar- 
I mont was still at Fuente Guinaldo, on the wrong side of the 
Agueda, and his bridge at La Caridad was still broken and 
not relaid. Though unaware that Wellington was close upon him 
with an overwhelming force, whose existence he denied (as we 
have seen) in a letter sent off so late as the 22nd, he was yet 
feeling uncomfortable, both because of his broken communica- 
tions, and because he had used up his food. Wherefore he gave 
orders that his artillery, using very bad side-roads, should pass 
the Agueda by the bridge of Villarubia, a small mountain 

1 See the Life of Surgeon-General Sir Jas. McGrigor, pp. 284-96. I have 
before me, among the Scovell papers, Grant's original signed parole as far 
as Bayonne, witnessed by General Lamartiniere, the chief of Marmont's 
staff. It was captured by Guerrilleros in Castile, and sent to Wellington. 
Accompanying it is the General's private letter, commending Grant to the 
attention of the French police, with the explanation that he was only 
not treated as a spy because he was captured in British uniform, though 
far in the rear of the French outpost line. 

1 Wellington to Graham, Castello Branco, April 18, Dispatches, ix. p. 70. 


crossing quite near its source, which would take it, not by 
the ordinary route past Ciudad Rodrigo, but by Robledo to 
Tamames, through a very difficult country. 1 He himself with 
the infantry stood fast on the 21st and 22nd, unaware of his 
dangerous position. 

For the allies were closing in upon him — the head-quarters 
of Wellington were on the 21st at Pedrogao, the 1st German 
Hussars, covering the advance, had reached Sabugal, and the 
Light and 3rd Divisions were close behind, as were Pack's and 
Bradford's Portuguese, while the 4th and 5th were both 
beyond Castello Branco. On the morning of the 22nd the head 
of the infantry column had passed Sabugal, and the Hussars 
were in front of them, pushing in Marmont's vedettes. A delay 
of twenty-four hours more on the part of the French would 
have brought the armies into collision, when Marmont gave 
orders for his infantry to retreat across the Agueda by the fords 
near Ciudad Rodrigo, where the water on that day had at last 
fallen enough to render the passage possible, though difficult 
and dangerous. The leading division marched on the 22nd, the 
rest on the 23rd : by the night of the latter day all were across 
the river, and retiring rapidly on Salamanca ; for, as Marmont 
truly observed, there was not a ration of food to be got out of 
the devastated country between Rodrigo and the Tormes. 

The odd part of this sudden, if long-deferred, retreat was that 
it was made without the slightest knowledge that it was 
imperative, owing to Wellington's near approach ; in the letter 
announcing it to Berthier the Marshal reiterates his statement 
that he does not believe that Wellington has a man north of 
Castello Branco save the 1st Hussars K.G.L. The retreat 
is only ordered because it is clear that, with 20,000 men only in 
hand, it is useless to continue the tour of devastation in the 

1 Marmont to Berthier, Fuente Guinaldo, April 22 [original intercepted! 
dispatch in Scovell Papers] : ' J'ai eu la plus grande peine a faire arrivei 
mon artillerie sur la rive droite de cette riviere. Les ponts que j'avais fail 
construire sur 1' Agueda ayant ete detruits par les grandes crues d'eau, el 
n'ayant pas la faculte de les retablir, je n'ai su d'autre moyen que de h 
diriger par les sources de cette riviere, et les contreforts des montagnes 
The wording of Wellington's intercepted copy differs slightly from that o 
the duplicate printed in Ducasse's Correspondence of King Joseph, viii 
pp. 404-10. 


Beira. ' Your highness may judge that the result of the 
diversion which I have sought to make in favour of the Army 
of the South has been practically nil. Such a movement could 
only be effective if carried out with a force great enough to 
enable me to march against the enemy with confidence, and to 
offer him battle, even if he had every available man collected. 
With 18,000 or 19,000 men (reduced to 15,000 or 16,000 because 
I have to leave detachments to keep up communications) I could 
not move far into Portugal without risk, even if I have no one 
in front of me, and the whole hostile army is on the farther bank 
of the Tagus For if I passed the Zezere and marched on 
Santarem, the enemy — master of Badajoz and covered by the 
Guadiana — could pass the Tagus behind me, and seize the 
denies of Zarza Major, Perales, and Payo, by which alone I could 
return. . . . There are several places at which he could cross the 
Tagus, above and below Alcantara, and so place himself by 
a rapid and secret movement that my first news of him would 
be by the sound of cannon on my line of communications — and 
my position would then be desperate V 

The real danger that was threatening him, on the day that he 
wrote this dispatch, Marmont did not suspect in the least, 
indeed he denied its existence. But he moved just in time, and 
was across the Agueda when, on the 24th, Wellington had his 
head-quarters at Alfayates, and three divisions at Fuente 
Guinaldo, which the French had only evacuated on the preceding 
day, with three more close behind. Only the 1st and 6th, under 
Graham, were still at Castello Branco and Losa. Evidently 
if the fords of the Agueda had remained impassable for another 
twenty-four hours, Marmont' s four divisions would have been 
overwhelmed by superior numbers and driven against the 
bridgeless river, over which there would have been no escape. 
As it was, he avoided an unsuspected danger, and returned to 
Salamanca with his army little reduced in numbers, but with 
his cavalry and artillery almost ruined : his dispatch of the 
22nd says that he has lost 1,500 horses, and that as many more 
needed a long rest if they were ever again to be fit for service. 

On the 24th Wellington bade all his army halt, the forced 

1 Intercepted dispatch in the Scovell Papers, Fuente Guinaldo, April 22, 
quoted above. 


marches which they had been carrying out for the last ten days 
having failed to achieve the end of surprising and overwhelming 
Marmont, who had obtained an undeserved escape. On the 
26th he paid a flying visit to Ciudad Rodrigo, whose safety he 
had at least secured, and commended General Vives for his 
correct attitude during the three weeks of the late blockade. 
The next movements of the allied army belong to a different 
series of operations, and must be dealt with in a new section. 




On March 16, 1812, the day on which Wellington opened 
his trenches before Badajoz, the Emperor Napoleon took a step 
of no small importance with regard to the control of his armies 
! in Spain. He had now made up his mind that the long- 
: threatened war with Russia must begin within a few months, 
and that he must leave Paris ere long, and move forward to some 
central point in Germany, from which he could superintend 
the preparations for a campaign, the greatest in scale of any 
which he had hitherto undertaken. He was persuaded that war 
; was inevitable : the Czar Alexander had dared to dispute his 
I will ; and in the state of megalomania, to which his mind had 
now accustomed itself, he could tolerate no opposition. Yet 
he was aware, in his more lucid moments, that he was taking 
a great risk. On March 7th Colonel Jardet, Marmont's con- 
fidential aide-de-camp, was granted an interview, in which he 
set forth all the difficulties of the Army of Portugal. The 
Emperor heard him out, and began, ' Marmont complains that 
he is short of many resources — food, money, means, &c. . . . 
Well, here am I, about to plunge with an immense army into 
the heart of a great country which produces absolutely nothing.'' 
And then he stopped, and after a long silence seemed suddenly 
to rouse himself from a sombre reverie, and looking the colonel 
in the face asked, 4 How will it all end ? ' Jardet, thrown off his 
balance by such a searching query, stammered that it would 
of course end in the best possible fashion. But he went out 
filled with gloomy forebodings, inspired by his master's evident 
lack of confidence in the future \ 
Some weeks were yet to elapse before the Emperor's actual 

1 See Marmont's Memoir es, iv. p. 202. Jardet' s long report to Marmont 
was captured on its journey out to Salamanca from Paris, and lies among 
the Scovell Papers. 


departure from France ; but, ere he went, he had to set in 
good working order the conduct of his policy during his absence, 
and of all its complicated machinery the Spanish section was 
one of the most puzzling and the most apt to get out of order. 
It was clearly impossible that he should continue to send from 
Dresden or Wilna elaborate orders every five or ten days, as he 
had been wont to do from Paris. If it took three weeks to get 
an order to Seville in February, it might take five or six in July, 
when the imperial head-quarters might be in some obscure 
Lithuanian hamlet. Something must be done to solve the 
problem of continuous policy, and of co-operation between the 
five armies of Spain, and after much consideration the Emperor | 
dictated to Berthier the solution which he thought least bad — 
' Send by special messenger a dispatch to the King of Spain, 
informing him that I confide to him the command of all my 
Spanish armies, and that Marshal Jourdan will serve as his 
Chief-of-the-Staff. You will send, at the same time, a similar 
intimation to that marshal. You will inform the King that 
I shall keep him advised of my political intentions through 
my ambassador at Madrid. You will write to Marshal Suchet, 
to the Duke of Dalmatia, and the Duke of Ragusa that I have 
entrusted the King with the charge of all my armies in his 
realm, and that they will have to conform to all the orders 
which they may receive from the King, to secure the co-opera 
tion of their armies. You will write, in particular, to the 
Duke of Ragusa that the necessity for obtaining common actior 
between the Armies of the South, of Valencia, and of Portugal, 
has determined me to give the King of Spain control over al 
of them, and that he will have to regulate his operations by th< 
instructions which he will receive. To-morrow you will write in 
greater detail to the King, but the special messenger must star 
this very night for Bayonne V 

Of the bundle of dispatches that for the King was deliverec 
at Madrid on March 28th, after twelve days of travel. Marmon 

1 King Joseph had been prepared for the formal proposal by a tentativj 
letter sent off to him about three weeks earlier, on February 19, inquirin 
whether it would suit him to have Jourdan as his Chief-of-the-Staff, supposin 
that the Emperor went off to Russia and turned over the command i 
Spain to him. See Ducasse's Correspondence, ix. p. 322. 


got his a little later, as he had started on his Portuguese expe- 
dition when it reached Salamanca. Communication between 
his field-force and his base being difficult, owing to the activity 
of Julian Sanchez, it appears to have been on March 30, when 
before Ciudad Rodrigo, that he became aware that he had 
a new commander-in-chief \ Soult was apprised of the situa- 
tion much later, because, when preparing for his expedition to 
relieve Badajoz, he had ordered his posts in the Sierra Morena 
to be evacuated, and the communication with La Mancha to be 
broken off for the moment. It seems that he must have got 
Berthier's dispatch quite late in April, as on the 17th of that 
month he was only acknowledging Paris letters of February 23rd 2 , 
and the first courier from Madrid got through only some time 
later. Suchet would appear also to have been advised of the 
change of command very late — he published the imperial 
decree in his official gazette at Valencia only on May 10, giving 
as its date the 29th instead of the 16th of March 3 , which looks 
as if the first copy sent to him had miscarried, and the repetition 
made thirteen days later had alone reached him. These dates 
are only worth giving as illustrations of the extreme difficulty 
of getting orders from point to point in Spain during the French 
occupation, even when Andalusia and Valencia were supposed 
to be thoroughly subdued. 

It will be noted that in Napoleon's instructions to Berthier 
no mention is made of either the Army of Catalonia or the Army 
of the North 4 ; and it might have been thought that, clinging 

1 This is proved by Berthier's letter to King Joseph of April 16 (Ducasse's 
Correspondence of King Joseph, viii. p. 382), which says that he has just 
received Marmont's dispatch of March 30 acknowledging his own of 
March 16, and that the Marshal now knows that he must obey orders from 
Madrid. 2 Soult to Berthier from Seville, April 17. 

3 A copy of this print is among the Scovell Papers : it does credit to the 
Valencian press by its neat appearance. 

4 The question about the Army of the North is a very curious one. The 
authorized copy of the dispatch of May 16, printed in Napoleon's corre- 
spondence and in Ducasse's Correspondence of King Joseph, certainly omits 
its name. But the King declared that in his original copy of it Dorsenne 
and his army were mentioned as put under his charge. In one of the 
intercepted dispatches in the Scovell Papers, Joseph writes angrily to 
Berthier, giving what purports to be a verbatim duplicate of the document, 
and in this duplicate, which lies before my eyes as I write this, the Army 
of the North is cited with the rest. 


to the theory of his paper annexation of Spain north of the 
Ebro, he was deliberately exempting from the King's control the 
troops in the districts on which he had resolved to lay hands 
for his own benefit. But a supplementary dispatch of April 23rd 
placed Decaen and the garrison of Catalonia under the general 
charge of Suchet, and as that marshal had been directed to 
obey King Joseph's military instructions, the four new ' French' 
departments on the Ebro were now theoretically under the 
same general command as the rest of Spain. As to the Army 
of the North, Dorsenne wrote (April 19th), with evident glee, 
to say that he was exempted from obedience to the King, by 
not being included in the list of recipients of the dispatch of 
March 16, and that he regretted his inability to carry out 
a series of orders which Jourdan had sent him. But he had 
not many more days to serve in his present capacity, and 
his successor, Caffarelli, though equally recalcitrant in spirit, 
presently received a formal notice that he was under King 
Joseph's command. 

Napoleon's general policy in placing the supreme control of 
all the Spanish armies in the hands of one chief, and bringing 
to an end (in theory at least) the system of separate viceroyalties 
was undoubtedly the right one. And it cannot be disputed 
that one second-rate commander-in-chief is more effective than 
four good ones, working each for his own private and local 
profit and glory. But in this particular case the new arrange- 
ment was not likely to bring about any great change for the 
better, owing to the personal equation. During the last three 
years Napoleon had been inflicting affronts at short intervals 
upon his brother, had annexed integral portions of his realm, 
had disregarded most of his complaints and suggestions, and 
had allowed him to become the butt of the viceroys, whose 
insults and injuries he had never been allowed to resent. They 
had raided the districts assigned to his personal governance 1 , 
had plundered his magazines, imprisoned his officials, and set 
up courts of justice of their own to supersede the regular 
magistracy of the land. The Emperor had never punished such 

1 One of Marmont's colonels in the province of Segovia was at this 
moment threatening to use armed force against the King's troops for 
resisting his requisitions. See Miot, iii. p. 222. 


proceedings ; at the most he had ordered that they should 
cease, when they were injurious to the progress of the French 
arms in Spain. It was useless to issue a sudden order that for 
the future the marshals were under Joseph's control, and that 
) he must make them obey him,' as the phrase ran in one letter 
to Madrid. As the King's minister, Miot de Melito, wrote, 
4 What chance was there of success when all the individuals 
concerned were at variance with each other ? The marshals 
had been accustomed for three years to absolute independence. 
The new Chief -of -the-Staff, in spite of his acknowledged capacity, 
was known to be out of favour with the Emperor, and in 
consequence could exercise no moral authority over the masters 
of the armies. The apparent testimonial of confidence which 
was given to the King, by making him Commander-in-Chief, was 
a matter to cause disquietude rather than satisfaction 1 .' The 
plain fact was that Napoleon was over-busy, worried with other 
problems, and he merely took the easiest and simplest method 
of throwing the burden of the Spanish war on to the shoulders 
of another. The consequences, be they what they might be, 
were now of little importance, compared with the success or 
failure of the impending Russian campaign. 

Jourdan sums up the situation in much the same terms. 
4 The King for two years had been allowed to have no direct 
relations with the generals-in-chief : he had no exact knowledge 
of the military situation in each of their spheres of command, 
nor was he better informed as to the strength, organization, 
and distribution of the troops under their orders. Unable to 
use his new authority till he had got together detailed state- 
ments as to these data, he directed his chief-of-the-staff to ask 
for reports. Dorsenne replied that he should not send any at 
present, because Berthier, when announcing to him that the 
Armies of the South, of Portugal, and of Aragon had been put 
under the King's orders, had informed him that the Emperor 
would let him know in due course what was to be done with 
the Army of the North. Marshal Suchet demonstrated that 
he had received special instructions from the Emperor, which 
presently were seen to make the King's authority over the 
Army of Aragon quite illusory. Soult had removed all the 
1 See Miot de Melito' s Mimoires, iii. p. 215. 


posts on the lines of communication when he marched to relieve 
Badajoz, and showed so little zeal in reopening them, that even 
in May it was not known at Madrid whether he was yet aware 
that he was under the King's orders. Marmont was the only 
one who sent without delay the report which had been asked 
for — but he announced at the same time that, in obedience to 
the Emperor's earlier orders, he was already operating beyond 
the Agueda, to make a diversion for the relief of Badajoz V 

Of what use was it to send orders to the marshals, when they 
could plead that the execution of them was rendered impossible 
by instructions received directly from the Emperor, which 
prescribed a different policy ? Unfortunately for King Joseph 
each commander-in-chief still preserved his direct communi- 
cation with the Minister of War at Paris : even after the Emperor 
had started for Poland in May, each continued to send in his 
own plans, and to demonstrate how far superior they were to 
those prescribed by King Joseph. Soult, in particular, generally 
commenced a dispatch by demonstrating that the directions 
received from Madrid could not possibly be executed, and then 
produced an elaborate scheme of his own, which would be 
beneficial for the Army of Andalusia, but impracticable for those 
of Portugal, Valencia, and the Centre. When his suggestions 
were rejected, he wrote privately to Paris, declaring that Joseph 
and Jourdan were absolutely incapable, and sometimes adding 
that the King was trying to serve his private interests rather 
than those of his brother and suzerain. It was the accidental 
receipt by Joseph of an intercepted letter of Soult's to the 
Minister of War, in which he was accused of absolute treason 
to the Emperor, that brought about the final rupture between 
the King and the Marshal, and led to the recall of the latter to 
France 2 . 

King Joseph, though liable to fits of depression and despair, 
was, on the whole, of a mercurial and self-sufficient temperament. 
A few weeks before the receipt of the Emperor's dispatch 

1 Jourdan's Memoires, p. 384. 

2 Oddly enough this letter was in duplicate, and while one copy fell into 
Joseph's hands, the other was captured by guerrilleros and sent to Welling- 
ton. The cipher was worked out by Scovell, and the contents gave 
Wellington useful information as to the relations between Soult and the 
King. See below, pages 530-39. 

1812] JOURDAN'S MfiMOIRE OF MAY 1812 303 

granting him the command of the Spanish armies, all his letters 
had been full of complaints and threats of abdication. But the 
decree of March 16th filled him with a sudden confidence — at 
last his military talents should be displayed and recognized ; 
he would, as his brother desired, ' make the marshals obey 
him ; ' for the future the armies should all act together for 
a single end, and not be guided by the selfish interests of their 
leaders. He accepted the position of Commander-in-Chief with 
undisguised pleasure, and proceeded to draw out schemes of his 
own, with Jourdan as his adviser in technical matters of military 
j logistics. 

It cannot be denied that the c Memoir e of May 1812 y in 
which Jourdan set forth the situation after the fall of Badajoz, 
and the policy which he considered that it demanded, is a 
document of much greater merit than might have been expected. 
It is by far the best summary of the position of the French 
power in Spain that was ever drawn up, and it recognizes with 
great clearness the two main limitations of that power, which 
were (1) that the imperial troops were an army of occupation 
rather than a genuine field army, and (2) that the Napoleonic 
system, by which hosts were supposed to ' live on the country- 
side,' might be applicable for a short campaign in Lombardy 
or Bavaria, but was impossible for protracted manoeuvres in 
an exhausted and thinly-peopled land like central Spain. 
Jourdan's note on the Memoire sums up the situation in a few 
lines — 4 Two measures were indispensable : one was to render 
the army mobile, by giving it ample transport, and by establish- 
ing large magazines on all lines of communication : without 
these all permanent concentration of heavy forces, and all 
continuous operations were impossible. The second was to 
abandon the deplorable system of occupying as much territory 
as possible — of which the real object was double : firstly, to 
enable the armies to live on the country-side ; secondly, to 
appear in the eyes of Europe to be dominant over the whole 
of Spain.' 

The Memoire itself is worth analysing. Its gist runs as 
follows : — 

1 (1) The recent departure of the Imperial Guards, the Poles, 
1 Printed whole in Jourdan's M&moires, pp. 386-94. 


and other troops, and the lack of any adequate system of 
transport or magazines, renders the Imperial Army — though 
still 230,000 men strong — incapable of undertaking any offen- 
sive operations. The present situation is exceptionally trying, 
because of the successes of Wellington, and the deplorable 
effect on Spanish public opinion of the recent annexation 
[Catalonia], the arbitrary government of the generals, and the 
famine which has lately prevailed. The discontent thereby I 
engendered has led to the enormous increase in the number 
of the guerrillero bands. It has also encouraged the govern- 
ment at Cadiz to multiply its levies and its military energy. 

(2) It is not yet certain whether the Emperor intends the 
Army of the North to be at the King's disposal. General 
Dorsenne refuses to send in reports or to accept orders. But 
since its recent reduction in numbers [by the departure of the 
Imperial Guard, and the transfer of Souham's and Bonnet's 
divisions to the Army of Portugal] it is believed that it has not 
more than 48,000 men under arms, and it appears to be a fact 
that it can do no more than hold down the wide regions com- 
mitted to its charge, and guard the line of communications 
with France. Even if placed at the King's disposition, it can 
furnish no important reinforcements to other armies. Never- 
theless it should be put under his control, as it might under 
certain circumstances be called upon to lend a moderate force 
for a short time. 

(3) As to the Army of Aragon [60,000 men, including the 
divisions in Catalonia] : the King was informed that Marshal 
Suchet was placed under his command, and that if he needed 
reinforcements he might draw on the troops in Valencia. He 
therefore [during the siege of Badajoz] ordered the Marshal 
to send a division to join the Army of the Centre for an indis- 
pensable operation \ The Marshal sent a formal declaration in 
reply, to the effect that he could not execute this order, and 
that he was even about to withdraw from Cuenca the regiment 
that he had placed there, as its absence imperilled the safety 
of Valencia. He says that the Emperor has placed Catalonia 
under his charge, and that he is authorized to employ his 

1 i.e. for the collection of troops in the valley of the Tagus, to join Foy 
and operate for the relief of Badajoz. 


whole force for the protection of the provinces entrusted to him. 
Apparently, then, the Army of Aragon cannot co-operate in 
operations outside its own sphere, and the Marshal's special 
instructions place him in an exceptional position. His relations 
with the King consist in a polite exchange of views, not in the 
giving and taking of orders — his Majesty's control over this 
army is purely illusory. 

(4) As to the Army of the South, Marshal Soult has about 
54,000 men effective [not including Juramentados, &c.]. The 
Cadiz Lines and the garrisons pin down a large force to fixed 
stations. The Marshal has also to keep a considerable flying 
column in hand, to hunt Ballasteros and other partisans. For 
operations outside the bounds of Andalusia he can only collect 
a field-force of 24,000 men ; this is the total figure of the corps 
that tried to relieve Badajoz, and in its absence Seville was 
nearly lost. The posts in the Sierra Morena were called in at 
that time, and have never come back : correspondence with 
the Army of the South is therefore precarious and slow. 

(5) The Army of Portugal has 52,000 men effective. It holds 
the front line against Wellington ; its divisions are much 
scattered, because it has to live on the country, and has also 
to furnish several important garrisons. One division of 6,000 
men is fixed down in the Asturias by the Emperor's special 
orders. The garrisons of Astorga, Valladolid, Salamanca, Leon, 
Palencia, &c., absorb 6,000 or 7,000 men more. Only 29,000 
infantry [or a total of 35,000 of all arms] are available as 
a field-force to use against the English, if they attack on the 
front of the Tormes. If Marshal Marmont has to march out of 
his own sphere, to join in a combined operation against Welling- 
ton [e.g. in Estremadura], he can bring a still smaller force — 
say 25,000 men. The Army of Portugal is many months in 
arrear of its pay, and has hardly any transport or magazines : 
the troops have become terrible marauders — largely from 

(6) Lastly we come to the Army of the Centre. It consists of 
9,500 men borne on the Imperial muster-rolls, and 5,800 troops 
belonging to the King [his Guards and Hugo's Juramentados, 
horse and foot]. There are also at present in Madrid 3,200 drafts 
for the Army of the South, temporarily retained — so that the 



whole makes up 18,500 men. But only 15,000 are effective, 
the remainder consisting of depots, dismounted cavalry, 
train, &c. Having to hold down the extensive provinces of 
Madrid, Segovia, Guadalajara, Toledo, La Mancha, and Cuenca, 
this force is a mere " army of occupation." It can provide no 
troops for expeditions outside its own territor} 7- , and is spread 
so thin that even Madrid would be in danger without the 
Royal Guards. The pay is eight months in arrear. 

(7) Civil administration is still localized : the commanders 
of the armies levy their own taxes, and nothing comes to 
Madrid. The King has to feed the Army of the Centre, and to 
maintain his civil service, from the revenues of New Castile 
alone. None of the marshals will help another with money or 
stores. The claim of the King to rule all Spain seems absurd 
to the people, so long as he cannot exercise any civil control 
outside the arrondissement of the Army of the Centre. 

(8) Conclusion. All offensive operations are impossible, as 
long as the imperial armies have to hold down the entirety 
of the occupied provinces. If Lord Wellington concentrates 
all his forces, he can march with 60,000 men [not including 
Spaniards] against either the Army of Portugal or the Army 
of the South. Neither of them can assemble a sufficient force 
to resist him, unless they abandon whole provinces. The 
King has ordered Soult and Marmont to march to each other 
aid if either is attacked. But they have to unite, coming from 
remote bases, while the enemy can place himself between therr ; 
and strike at one or the other. The lines of communicatior' 
between them are long and circuitous. It is easily conceivabk 
that one of them may be attacked and beaten before the othej 
is even aware of the danger. A catastrophe is quite possible ij 
Lord Wellington should throw himself suddenly, with his wholj 
force, upon either the Army of Portugal or that of the South. 

The only possible way of dealing with this danger is to collecj 
a central reserve of 20,000 men at Madrid, which can b 
promptly transferred to right or left, to join either Soult o 
Marmont as the conditions of the moment dictate. The Arm 
of the Centre cannot serve this purpose — it is not a neld-forct 
but an immovable army of occupation. If the Emperor coul 
send a new corps of this size from France, Marmont could b 


reinforced up to a strength sufficient to enable him to face 
Wellington, and to besiege Ciudad Rodrigo. 

But the present posture of European affairs [the Russian war] 
probably makes it impossible to draw such a corps from France. 
This being so, the central reserve must be obtained from troops 
already existing in the Peninsula. The only way to find them 
is for the Emperor to consent to the evacuation of Andalusia. 
Thirty thousand men of the Army of the South can then be 
I placed to cover Madrid, in La Mancha : this force would be 
ample against any Spanish levies that might come up to the 
Sierra Morena from Cadiz and elsewhere. The remainder of 
the Army of the South must form the central reserve, and 
prepare to reinforce Marmont. The Army of Portugal would 
then be so strong that Wellington could not dare to take the 
I offensive — he would be hopelessly outnumbered. If this 
scheme is approved by the Emperor, he may be certain that, 
when he comes back from Poland, his Spanish armies will be 
in the same secure defensive position in which he leaves them 
now. The right wing rests on the Bay of Biscay in the Asturias : 
the left on the Mediterranean in Valencia. 

When Andalusia is evacuated, the remaining provinces in 
French occupation will not be able to pay or feed the 54,000 men 
of the Army of the South, in addition to the armies already 
stationed in them ; a liberal subsidy from Paris will be neces- 
sary. In addition the King must, for the sake of his prestige, 
be given real civil authority over all the provinces. 

It will only be when all authority, civil, military, and adminis- 
trative, is concentrated in one hand, that of the King, and 
when His Majesty shall have received from the Emperor instruc- 
tions suiting the present posture of affairs, that he can be 
fully responsible for Spain.' 

On the whole this is a very well-reasoned document. It was 
perfectly true that the offensive power of the French in the 
Peninsula had shrunk to nothing, because no province could 
be held down without a large garrison. If left unoccupied, it 
would burst into revolt and raise an army. This was the 
inevitable nemesis for a war of annexation directed against 
a proud and patriotic people. There were 230,000 French troops 
in Spain ; but so many of them were tied down to occupation 

x 2 


duty, that only about 50,000 or 60,000 could be collected to 
curb Wellington, unless some large province were evacuated. 
Either Andalusia or else Valencia must be abandoned. The 
former was the larger and the more wealthy ; but it was 
more remote from the strategical centre of operations in Madrid, j 
much more infested by the bands of the patriots, and it lay ! 
close to the sphere of operations of Wellington — the great j 
disturbing element in French calculations. Moreover its 
evacuation would set free a much larger field army. Against! 
this was to be set the adverse balance in loss of prestige : as long j 
as Cadiz appeared to be beleaguered, the national government : 
of Spain looked like a handful of refugees in a forlorn island. 
To abandon the immense lines in front of it, with their depen- 
dent flotilla (which must be burnt, since it could not be removed), 
would be a conclusive proof to all Europe that the main frontal 
offensive against the Spanish patriots had failed. Seville and 
Granada, great towns of world-wide fame, would also have to 
be abandoned. Andalusia was full of Afrancesados, who must 
either be shepherded to Madrid, or left to the vengeance of their 

But to weigh prestige against solid military advantage, 
though it might appeal to Napoleon — whose reputation as 
universal conqueror was part of his political stock-in-trade- 
did not occur to the common-sense intellect of Jourdan. He 
voted for the evacuation of Andalusia : so did his friend and 
master, King Joseph. Possibly their decision was not rendered 
more unwelcome by the fact that it would certainly be most 
distasteful to Soult, whom they both cordially detested. Th( 
Viceroy should pay at last for the selfish policy of the General I 
his realm, for the last two years, had been administered wit! 
much profit and glory to himself, but with little advantage 
to the King at Madrid, or the general prosperity of the Frencl 
cause in Spain. Whether personal motives entered into th< 
decision of Joseph and Jourdan we need not trouble to consider 
it was certainly the correct one to take. 

Permission to evacuate Andalusia was therefore demandecj 
from the Emperor : King Joseph did not dare to authorize i 
on his own responsibility. Meanwhile, long before the Memoir 
of May 1812 had been completed or sent off, to Napoleon, h 


issued the orders which he thought himself justified in giving 
in the interim, to act as a stop-gap till the permission should be 
granted. Marmont was told to fall back on his own old policy 
of keeping a large detachment in the Tagus valley, in order 
that he might get into touch with Drouet and Soult's Estrema- 
duran corps of observation. He was directed to send two 
divisions of infantry and a brigade of light cavalry to join Foy, 
who was still in the direction of Almaraz and Talavera. They 
were to be ready to act as the advance of the Army of Portugal 
for a march on Truxillo and Merida, if Wellington's next move 
should turn out to be an attack on Soult in Andalusia. In 
a corresponding fashion, Soult was ordered to reinforce Drouet 
up to a force of 20,000 men, and to push him forward to his 
old position about Almendralejo, Zalamea, Merida, andMedellin, 
in order that he might march via Truxillo to join the Army of 
Portugal, in case the Anglo-Portuguese army should choose 
Salamanca, not Seville, as its next objective. The small part 
of the Army of the Centre that could be formed into a field- 
force — three battalions and two cavalry regiments, under 
General d'Armagnac — was directed to move to Talavera, to 
relieve Foy there if he should be called to move either north 
to join Marmont on the Tormes, or south to join Soult on the 
Guadiana 1 . To replace these troops, drawn from the provinces 
of Cuenca and La Mancha, Joseph — as we have already seen 2 — 
requested Suchet to send ' a good division ' from Valencia by 
Cuenca, on to Ocana in La Mancha 3 . In this way the King 
and Jourdan thought they would provide for active co-opera- 
tion between the Armies of Portugal and Andalusia, whether 
Wellington should make his next move to the South or the 

It is curious, but perhaps not surprising, to find that these 
orders, the first-fruits of Joseph's new commission as Com- 
mander-in-Chief, were obeyed neither by Suchet, by Soult, nor 
by Marmont. 

The former, as we have already seen, when analysing Jour- 
dan's Memoire of May 1812, not only refused to send a division 

1 See Jourdan to Berthier of April 3, 1812. 

2 See Jourdan' s M6moire y quoted above, p. 304. 

3 Jourdan to Suchet, April 9, 1812. 


to Ocana, but stated that he should be obliged to withdraw 
the regiment that he was keeping at Cuenca, because he was 
authorized by the Emperor to reserve all his own troops for the 
defence of his own sphere of action, in Valencia, Aragon, and 
Catalonia. Soult declared that it was impossible for him to 
reinforce Drouet — 6 he could not keep 20,000 men on the 
Guadiana unless he received large reinforcements : all that he 
could promise was that the force in Estremadura should move 
up again to Medellin and Villafranca, possibly even to Merida, 
if Wellington had really gone northward with his main army. 
Drouet, with his 10,000 or 12,000 men, might serve to " contain " 
Hill and the British detachment in Estremadura, and his 
position would prevent the enemy from making any important 
movement in the valley of the Tagus. Meanwhile he him- 
self must, as an absolute necessity, lay siege to Tarifa for the 
second time, and make an end of Ballasteros : no more troops, 
therefore, could be sent to Drouet : but when Tarifa and 
Ballasteros had been finished off, the siege of Cadiz should be 
pressed with vigour.' This reply is not only a blank refusal to 
obey the King's orders, but amounts to a definite statement 
that the local affairs of Andalusia are more important than the 
general co-operation of the French armies in Spain. As we 
shall presently see, Soult was ready to formulate this startling 
thesis in the plainest terms — he was, ere long, to propose that 
the King and the Army of the Centre should evacuate Madrid 
and retire upon Andalusia, when things went wrong with the 
Army of Portugal. 

As to Marmont, his reply to King Joseph's dispatch was 
couched in terms of less open disobedience, but it was by 1101 
means satisfactory. He wrote from Salamanca, on April 29th, 
after his return from the raid to Sabugal and Guarda, that he 
had now learnt (what he did not know ten days before), that 
Wellington had been pursuing him with five divisions. This 
force was still in the Beira, and the British general himself had 
been at Ciudad Rodrigo on the 26th. It was, therefore, quite 
clear that Soult had not ' the whole English army on his 
shoulders.' This being so, it was not necessary to send into the 
valley of the Tagus such a large force as was asked. But one 
division should move to Avila at once, and could drop down 


on to Talavera in two days, if it turned out to be necessary. 
Two more should be cantoned about Arevalo and the Pass of 
Piedrahita [20 miles north-west of Avila] respectively, points 
from which they could be transferred to the valley of the Tagus 
in a few days. Marmont then proceeded to warn Jourdan 
against any scheme for concentrating any considerable force 
in the direction of La Mancha, urging that he must be able to 
collect as many of his divisions opposite Wellington as possible, 
in case of an advance by the Anglo-Portuguese army towards 
the Tormes. All that was necessary on the Tagus was to have 
the forts at Almaraz well garrisoned and provided with stores, 
so that troops dropping down from Avila on a southward march 
should find a base and magazines ready for them. Summing 
up, he ends with a dictum that ' if we defend Andalusia by 
sacrificing the Army of Portugal, we may save that province 
for the moment, but the North will be in danger : if a disaster 
occurs there, Andalusia will soon be lost also. If, on the 
contrary, we make its defence in the North, the South may be 
lost, but the North still remains secure.' By these somewhat 
cryptic words, Marmont seems to mean that, looking at the affairs 
of Spain at large, Andalusia may be lost without any shock to 
the imperial domination in Leon and Old Castile. But a disaster 
in Leon or Old Castile entails inevitably the loss of Andalusia 
also. This was true enough, though Soult refused to see it. 

But the result of Marmont's very partial fulfilment of Joseph's 
orders, and of Soult's and Suchet's entire neglect of them, was 
that Jourdan's main design of providing for close and speedy 
co-operation between the Armies of Portugal and Andalusia 
was completely foiled. When, on May 17th-19th, Hill made 
his celebrated irruption into the valley of the Tagus, with the 
object of destroying the bridge and forts of Almaraz, the point 
where the interests of Soult and Marmont were linked together, 
he found no French troops within fifty miles of his objective, 
save the single division of Foy and D'Armagnac's 3,000 men 
from the Army of the Centre. Marmont's nearest division in 
support was at Avila, Soult's in the Sierra Morena ; both lay 
so far off from Almaraz that Hill could not only deliver his 
blow, but could depart at leisure when it was struck, without 
any risk of being beset by superior forces. If King Joseph's 


orders of April had been carried out, Wellington's stroke in 
May would have been impossible — or risky to the verge of 
rashness. Indeed we may be certain, on Wellington's record, 
that he would not have made it, if three French divisions, 
instead of one, had been about Talavera and Almaraz. We may 
add that his self-reliance during the Salamanca campaign 
rested largely on the fact that Soult could not succour Marmont, 
within any reasonable space of time, even if he wished to do 
so, because the bridge of Almaraz was broken. Wherefore 
Jourdan and King Joseph must be pronounced to have been 
wise in their foresight, and the Dukes of Ragusa and Dalmatia 
highly blameworthy for their disregard of the orders given 
them. They looked each to their own local interests, not to the 
general strategic necessities of the French position in Spain, 
which the King and his Chief-of-the-Staff were keeping in mind. 

So far their precautions were wise : to blame them for not 
taking the tremendous step of evacuating Andalusia without 
the Emperor's leave, and concentrating such a force in central 
Spain as would have paralysed Wellington's offensive, would 
be unjust. They dared not have given such an order — and 
if they had, Soult would have disobeyed it. 

Napoleon himself, indeed, would have agreed with Soult at 
this time. For not long after Jourdan's Memoir e of May 1812, 
with its request for leave to abandon Andalusia, had started on 
its journey for Dresden, there arrived at Madrid a dispatch from 
Berthier, setting forth the final instructions left by the Emperor 
before he started from Paris on May 9th. It was of a nature 
to strike dismay into the heart of the level-headed and rather 
despondent Jourdan ; for it ignored all the difficulties which his 
recently dispatched appeal set forth with such clearness. The 
King was directed to keep a grip on all the conquered provinces 
of Spain, and to extend their limits till the enemy should be 
extirpated. The conquest of Portugal might be postponed till 
4 les evenements determineraient absolument cette mesure.' 
The region to which the Emperor devoted most attention was 
the sphere of the Army of the North. 4 This is the part on 
which it is indispensable to keep a firm hold, never to allow 
the enemy to establish himself there, or to threaten the line 
of communications. Wherefore a most active war must be 1 


; waged upon the " Brigands " [Mina, Porlier, Longa, &c] : 
it is of no use to hunt and scatter them, leaving them power 
to reunite and to renew their incursions. As to the English, the 
! present situation seems rather to require a defensive posture : 
! but it is necessary to maintain an imposing attitude in face 
of them, so that they may not take any advantage of our 
position. The strength of the forces at the King's disposition 
| enables him to do, in this respect, all that circumstances may 
demand. Such are the principal ideas which the Emperor, 
before departing, has expressed on the Spanish problem.' 
This was a heart-breaking document. Just when the King 
i and Jourdan had demonstrated that they had no available 
i field army left to hold back Wellington, they were informed 
that their forces were ample for the purpose. When they had 
: asked leave to evacuate Andalusia they are told to ' conserver 
i les conquetes et les etendre successivement.' They had been 
j wishing to concentrate at all costs a central reserve — now they 
were directed to spread the already scattered army of occupa- 
tion over a still greater surface — presumably the Emperor's 
phrase meant that he wished to see Murcia, the Catalonian 
inland, the whole of the Asturias, and the Condado de Niebla 
garrisoned, in addition to all that was held already. The one 
central problem to Joseph and Jourdan was how to face 
Wellington's expected onslaught by making the armies co- 
operate — the Emperor forbids concentration, and recommends 
4 the assumption of an imposing attitude ! ' As if Wellington, 
whose knowledge of the movements and plans of his adversaries 
was beginning to appear almost uncanny to them, was to be 
contained by ' attitudes,' imposing or otherwise. 

The unhappy Commander-in-Chief and Chief-of-the-Staff of 
the united armies of Spain were reduced to a sort of apathetic 
despair by the Emperor's memorandum. Jourdan, in his 
Memoires, appears to shrug the shoulders of resignation in 
commenting on its effect. 4 If only instead of " hold all you 
have, and conquer the rest bit by bit," we had been told that 
we might evacuate some provinces and concentrate the troops, 
there would have been much good in the instructions. The 
King might have dared to abandon the South in order to keep 
down the North, if he had not received this dispatch. But he 


could not take that portentous step without the imperial 
permission. All that he could now do, was to reiterate his 
directions to Soult and Marmont that they must so place their 
troops as to be able to succour each other. We shall see how 
they obeyed those orders V 

So, by the special and deliberate directions of the Emperor, 
the 230,000 effective men ' present under arms,' forming the 
five imperial armies of Spain, were placed at the mercy of 
Lord Wellington and his modest force of eight divisions of 
Anglo-Portuguese. In a flight of angry rhetoric, Berthier, 
writing under Napoleon's dictation, had once asked whether 
it was reasonable ' que quarante mille Anglais gdtent toutes les 
affaires d'EspagneS The reply of the fates was to be that 
such a contingency was perfectly possible, under the system 
which the Emperor had instituted, and with the directions 
which he persisted in giving. 

1 Jourdan's Memoir es, pp. 395-6. 



On April 24th Wellington halted his pursuing army at 
Fuente Guinaldo and Sabugal, on hearing that Marmont had 
escaped him by a margin of twenty-four hours. The French 
were in full march for Salamanca, and it was impossible to 
pursue them any further, firstly because the allied army needed 
a few days of rest after the forced march from Badajoz, and 
secondly because its train had dropped behind, food was nearly 
out, and convoys had to be brought up from Lamego and 
Sao Joao de Pesqueira. There was, of course, nothing to be 
got out of the unhappy region in which Marmont's locusts had 
just been spread abroad. The only fortunate thing was that 
the Duke of Ragusa had turned his raid against the Beira 
Baixa, and left the great depots on the Douro unmolested. 
From them ample sustenance could be got up, in a week, to 
the positions behind the Agueda and Coa where the army had 

Wellington, as it will be remembered, had contemplated an 
attack on Andalusia after Badajoz fell. But the necessity for 
seeing to the relief and revictualling of Almeida and Ciudad 
Rodrigo had brought him up to the frontiers of Leon with the 
main body of his host. In the position where he now lay, he 
was well placed for an advance on Salamanca, and an attack 
on the Army of Portugal. To return to Estremadura would 
involve a long and weary countermarch. Moreover there was 
no doubt that operations in Leon would be more decisive than 
operations in Andalusia. As Marmont was to write to Berthier 
a few days later, a victory of the allies in the North would 
involve the evacuation of the South by Soult, while a victory in 
Andalusia would leave the French power in the valleys of the 
Douro and Tagus unshaken 1 . Advancing from the line of the 
1 See above, p. 311. 


Agueda against Salamanca and Valladolid, Wellington would 
have his base and his main line of communications in his direct 
rear, safe against any flank attack. A raid against Andalusia, 
even if successful, would separate him from Lisbon, and compel 
him to take up a new base at Cadiz — a doubtful expedient. But 
what seems, in the end, to have been the main cause for Welling- 
ton's choosing Leon rather than Andalusia as his next sphere 
of operations, was that Marmont (as he judged) had the larger 
available army for field movements outside his own ground. 
Soult was more pinned down to his viceroyalty by local needs : 
he would not raise the siege of Cadiz or evacuate Granada and 
Cordova. Therefore he could not collect (as his movement at the 
time of the fall of Badajoz had shown) more than 24,000 men 
for an offensive operation. This was the absolute limit of his 
power to aid Marmont. But the latter, if he chose to evacuate 
Asturias and other outlying regions, could bring a much larger 
force to help Soult. Therefore an attack on Andalusia would 
enable the enemy to concentrate a more numerous defensive 
force than an attack on Leon. ' Of the two armies opposed to 
us that of Portugal can produce the larger number of men for 
a distant operation. Marmont has nothing to attend to but 
the British army, as he has been repeatedly told in [intercepted] 
letters from Berthier. By abandoning Castille and Leon for 
a short time he may lose some plunder and contributions, but 
he loses nothing that can permanently affect his situation, or 
which he could not regain as soon as he has a superiority 
particularly of cavalry, in the open plains of Castille. Marmont's 
then, being what may be called of the two the operating army 
the movement which I might make into Andalusia woulc 
enable the enemy to bring the largest body of men to act togethe 
on one point. It would be a false movement, and this must bj 
all means be avoided V 

This decision was not made immediately on Marmont' 
retreat of April 24th : for some days after the British head 
quarters settled down at Fuente Guinaldo, Wellington had no 
quite made up his mind between the two operations : his letter 
to Lord Liverpool, to Hill, and Graham, are full of the need 
of the moment, and do not lay down any general strategic? 
1 Dispatches, ix. p. 173. 


plan. The staff, in their discussions with each other, can- 
vassed the situation. ' While Marmont remains in Old Castile 
he [Wellington] must leave a certain force near the frontier 
of the Beira. But leaving the 3rd, 4th, 5th Divisions, and 
Pack's and Bradford's Portuguese (perhaps 18,000 men) for 
that purpose, he can move upon Andalusia, if he wishes, with 
the 1st, 6th, 7th, and Light Divisions, afterwards picking up 
Power's Portuguese brigade and all General Hill's corps d'armee 
— perhaps 36,000 infantry. This would do.' So wrote D'Urban 
the chief of the Portuguese staff in his private diary, on May 5, 
evidently after discussion with Beresford, and others of those 
who were nearest the centre of decision. Wellington, however, 
was pondering over alternatives : he could not move for a week 
or two at the best, for he had to replenish his stores at the front, 
and to see that the repairs and revictualling of Almeida and 
Rodrigo were completed, before he could start on any offensive 
movement. In that time, too, he would be able to learn how 
Marmont was disposing of his army, and whether Soult was 
showing any tendency to reinforce Drouet's force in Estremadura. 
It seems that an insight into his enemies' purposes was 
made specially easy for Wellington at this moment by the 
successive capture of a great deal of French correspondence. 
When Marmont was in Portugal, between the 1st and 23rd of 
April, three of the duplicates of his dispatches were captured, 
one by Portuguese Ordenanca, the others by Julian Sanchez 
between Rodrigo and Salamanca \ They were all in cipher, 
but the ingenuity of Captain Scovell, the cipher-secretary at 
head- quarters, was capable of dealing with them, and from 
them could be made out a great deal about the strength of the 
Marshal's army, and his general views on the campaign. If 
they had been taken and sent in a little earlier, they might have 
enabled Wellington to complete that surprise and dispersion of 
the French expeditionary force which had been in his mind. 

The cipher-originals are all in the Scovell papers, worked out into 
their interpretation by that ingenious officer : Wellington only kept the 
fair copies for himself. The dispatches are dated Sabugal, 11 April (to 
Brennier about the Agueda bridge) ; Sabugal, April 16 (to Berthier) ; Fuente 
Guinaldo, April 22 (to Berthier). The last two are full of the most acri- 
monious criticism of Napoleon's orders for the invasion of Beira. Scovell 
made out much, but not all, of the contents of these letters. 


But though they arrived too late for this purpose, they were 
valuable, as showing Marmont's dislike of the imperial orders 
that he had been sent to carry out, and his preference for his 
own schemes. They were also full of bitter complaints of the 
neglect in which the Army of Portugal was left as to pay, stores, 
and transport. Wellington might reasonably deduce from 
them that any reconcentration of that army would be slow, 
and that if it had to march to reinforce Soult in the South, the 
effort would be a severe one. 

But shortly after Marmont's return to Salamanca, his 
adversary got an even more valuable insight into his plans. 
The guerrilleros carried off, between Salamanca and Valladolid, 
an officer bearing five dispatches, dated April 28 and April 30th. 
One was directed to Dorsenne, two to Berthier, one to Jourdan, 
the fifth contained the parole to Bayonne of the great scout, 
Colquhoun Grant \ The first, couched in very peremptory 
terms, asked for food — the Army of Portugal must absolutely 
receive 8,000 quintals of wheat, once promised, without delay 
it was in a state of danger and penury, and could not keep 
concentrated to face the British. Of the letters to Berthier 
one announced that Bonnet's division was duly in march for 
the Asturias, and that without it the Marshal thought his own 
strength dangerously low. The other asked for 4,000,000 francs 
owing to the Army of Portugal for pay and sustenance, and 
declared that, unless money came to hand at once, it was impos 
sible to see how the troops were to be kept alive in the two 
months still remaining before harvest. A postscript asked foi 
a siege-train to be sent on at all costs — the Marshal had heard 
that one was on the way from Bayonne : but nothing was 
known about it at Burgos. The letter to Jourdan was the 
most important of all 2 : it was the document, already quoted 
in the previous chapter, in which the Marshal detailed his 
intentions as to the dispersion of his army, protested againsl 
being obliged to send too many men into the valley of th( 
Tagus, and explained the importance of the bridge-forts anc 
magazines at Almaraz, by which his troops at Avila, &c, wouk 

1 All the originals are in the Scovell Papers. 

2 It is the one printed in Ducasse's Correspondence of King Joseph, viii 
pp. 413-17. 


debouch southward whenever they were ordered to concentrate 
for a junction with Soult. ' On ne peut agir que par Lugar 
Nuevo [the name by which Marmont always designates the 
Almaraz forts] . . . il faut bien se garder de jeter trop de 
troupes sur le Tage, et se contenter de bien assurer une defense 
de huit jours pour les forts de Lugar Nuevo et Mirabete, temps 
suffisant pour que les troupes rassemblees a Avila debouchent. 
... Un depot de 400 a 500 mille fanegas (qui n'est pas au dela 
de ce que Madrid et La Manche peuvent fournir) donnerait les 
moyens d'agir sans compromettre la subsistance des troupes.' 

Undoubtedly it was the deciphering of the greater part of this 
letter, which set forth so clearly the importance of the Almaraz 
bridge, and showed at the same time that only one French 
division [Foy's at Talavera] was anywhere near it, that deter- 
mined Wellington to make the sudden stroke at that central 
strategical point which he had thought of in February 1 . At 
that time he had refused to try it, because there were three 
French divisions on the Tagus. Now there was only one at 
Talavera, two marches from Almaraz, and the nearest reinforce- 
ments at Avila were two very long marches from Talavera. 
The possibility presented itself that a column might strike at 
Almaraz from somewhere on the Portuguese frontier, and take 
the place by a coup- de-main, with or without first beating Foy, 
whose strength of 5,000 men was perfectly known to Wellington. 

Hill could count on two or three days of undisturbed opera- 
tions before the nearest reinforcing division, that of Foy, could 
reach Almaraz : on four or five more, before troops from Avila 
could come up. It must be noted that everything would depend 
on the absolute secrecy that could be preserved as to the start 
of the expedition : but on this Wellington thought that he 
could count. The Spanish peasantry seldom or never betrayed 
him : the French had no outlying posts beyond Almaraz which 
might give them warning. The garrison was in a normal state 
of blockade by guerrillero bands haunting the Sierra de 

It may be added that a blow at Almaraz was just as 
useful as a means for keeping Soult from joining Marmont 
as Marmont from joining Soult. It would be profitable 
1 See above, p. 202. 


if Wellington's final decision should be given in favour I 
of an Andalusian expedition. But his mind was by now I 
leaning towards an attack on Leon rather than on the South, j 
The final inclination may have been given by the receipt of 
another intercepted dispatch — Soult's to Jourdan of April 17 \ 
sent in by guerrilleros who had probably captured the bearer 
in the Sierra Morena about April 20th. This document, which 
we have already had occasion to quote for another purpose 2 , 
was full of angry denunciations of Marmont for letting Badajoz 
fall unaided, and served to show that, if Soult had to help the 
Army of Portugal, he would do so with no good will to its 
commander. Moreover it was largely occupied by proposals 
for the circumventing of Ballasteros and the siege of Tarifa — 
movements which would disperse the Army of the South even 
more than it was already dispersed, and would clearly prevent it 
from succouring Marmont within any reasonable space of time. 
The decision that Hill should make his long-deferred coup- 
de-main upon Almaraz first appears in Wellington's dispatches 
on May 4th 3 , but Hill had been warned that the operation was 
likely to be sanctioned some days earlier, on April 24, and again 
more definitely on April 30th 4 . That the final judgement of 
Wellington was now leaning in favour of the advance on 
Salamanca rather than the Andalusian raid appears to emerge 
from a note of D' Urban dated May 6th — ' The retirement of 
Marmont within a given distance — the slow progress of the 
Spaniards at Rodrigo, which renders it unsafe to leave that 
place and this frontier — the retiring altogether of Soult, and 
the state of his army not making him dangerous now — these 
and other combining reasons determine Lord Wellington to 
make his offensive operation north of the Tagus, and to 
move upon Marmont. All necessary preparations making, but 
secretly : it will be very feasible to keep the movement unfore- 
seen till it begins. Meanwhile General Hill is to move upon 
and destroy everything at Almaraz 5 .' 

1 Original in the Scovell Papers. Place of capture uncertain, but clearly 
taken by guerrilleros between Seville and Madrid. 

2 See above, pp. 269-70. 

3 Wellington to Graham, Fuentc Guinaldo, May 4, Dispatches, ix. p. 114 

4 Ibid., p. 101. 5 D'Urban's unpublished diary, under May 6, 

1812] HILL'S ADVANCE 321 

The orders for Hill's move were given out on May 7th. He 
was to march from his head-quarters at Almendralejo with two 
British brigades (Howard's and Wilson's) of the 2nd Division, 
and the Portuguese brigade attached to the division (Ash- 
worth's), one British cavalry regiment (13th Light Dragoons), 
and to cross the Guadiana at Merida. Beyond the Guadiana he 
would pick up Campbell's Portuguese cavalry brigade, which 
was lying at Arroyo dos Molinos. The march was then to be 
as rapid as possible, via Jaraicejo and Miravete. The expedi- 
tionary force made up 7,000 men in all. 

There were left in Estremadura to ' contain ' Drouet the 
two English cavalry brigades of Hill's force (Slade's and Long's) 1 , 
one British infantry brigade (Byng's) of the 2nd Division, 
Hamilton's Portuguese division, and Power's unattached 
Portuguese brigade (late the garrison of Elvas, and more 
recently acting as that of Badajoz). The whole would make 
up 11,000 men. Power, or at least some of his regiments, was 
now disposable, because the Spaniards destined to hold Badajoz 
had begun to arrive, and more were daily expected 2 . 

But this was not the only precaution taken against Drouet, 
who had recently been reported as a little inclined to move 
northward from Fuente Ovejuna — detachments of his cavalry 
had been seen as far north as Zalamea 3 . Wellington determined 
to move down towards the Guadiana the southern or right 
wing of his main army — the 1st and 6th Divisions under 
Graham. First one and then the other were filed across the 
bridge of Villa Velha and sent to Portalegre. Here they would 
be in a position to support the force left in front of Drouet, if 
Soult should unexpectedly reinforce his Estremaduran corps. 
Wellington acknowledged that he disliked this wide extension 
of his army, but justified himself by observing that, if he had 
now his left wing almost touching the Douro, and his right wing 
almost touching the Sierra Morena, he might risk the situation, 
because he was fully informed as to Marmont's similar disper- 
sion. The Army of Portugal was scattered from the Asturias to 

1 Minus, of course, the 13th Light Dragoons. 
Erskine was the senior officer left with the corps — a dangerous experi- 
ment. One marvels that Wellington risked it after previous experience. 
3 Wellington to Graham, May 7, Dispatches, ix. p. 128. 

OMAN, v v 


Talavera, and from its want of magazines and transport, whichl 
Marmont's intercepted dispatches made evident, would be| 
unable to concentrate as quickly as he himself could. 

The movement of Graham's two divisions from the Castellol 
Branco region to south of the Tagus had an additional advan-i 
tage. If reported to the French it would tend to make themi 
believe that the next offensive operation of the allied army 
would be in the direction of Andalusia, not towards the Tormes. 
If Soult heard of it, he would begin to prepare to defend his 
own borders, and would not dream that Marmont was really 
the enemy at whom Wellington was about to strike ; while 
Marmont, on the other hand, thinking that Soult was to be th( 
object of Wellington's attentions, might be less careful of hii 
own front. The expedition to Almaraz would not undeceivd 
either of them, since it was well suited for a preliminary mov« 
in an attack on Andalusia, no less than for one directed agains 

Hill's column reached Merida on May 12th, but was delaye 
there for some hours, because the bridge, broken in April, ha< 
not yet been repaired, as had been expected, the officers sen 
there having contented themselves with organizing a servic 
of boats for the passage. The bridge was hastily finished, bu 
the troops only passed late in the day ; they picked up i 
the town the artillery and engineers told off for the expeditioi 
Glubb's British and Arriaga's Portuguese companies of artillen 
who brought with them six 24-pounder howitzers, a pontoo 
train, and wagons carrying some 30-foot ladders for escaladin 
work. The importance attached to the raid by Wellington 
shown by the fact that he placed Alexander Dickson, his mo: 
trusted artillery officer, in charge of this trifling detachmen 
which came up by the road north of the Guadiana by Badaj( 
and Montij o to join the main column. 

Once over the Guadiana, Hill reached Truxillo in thr< 
rapid marches [May 15], and there left all his baggage- trai 
save one mule for each company with the camp-kettles. T) 
most difficult part of the route had now been reached, thr 
successive mountain ranges separating Truxillo from the Tagi 
On the 16th, having crossed the first of them, the colun; 
reached Jaraicejo : at dawn on the 17th, having made a nig 


i march, it was nearing the Pass of Miravetc, the last defile 

! above the river. Here, as Hill was aware, the French had 
outlying works, an old castle and two small forts, on very 
commanding ground, overlooking the whole defile in such 

|a way that guns and wagons could not possibly pass them. 
The British general's original intention was to storm the 
Miravete works at dawn, on the 17th, and at the same time to 

I attack with a separate column the forts at the bridge. With 
this purpose he divided his troops into three detachments. 
Ashworth's Portuguese and the artillery were to keep to the 

; chaussee, and make a demonstration of frontal attack on 
the Castle : General Tilson-Chowne [interim commander of the 

| 2nd Division at the moment *] was, with Wilson's brigade and 
the 6th Cacadores, to make a detour in the hills to the left and 

i to endeavour to storm the Castle from its rear side. General 
Howard, with the other British brigade, was to follow a similar 

| bridle path to the right, and to descend on to the river and 

! attack the forts by the bridge. 

A miscalculation had been made — the by-paths which the 

] flanking columns were to take proved so far more steep and 

, difficult than had been expected, that by dawn neither of them 
had got anywhere near its destination. Hill ordered them to 
halt, and put off the assault. This was fortunate, for by 
a long and close reconnaissance in daylight it was recognized 
that the Castle of Miravete and its dependent outworks, Forts 
Colbert and Senarmont, were so placed on a precipitous conical 
hill that they appeared impregnable save by regular siege 
operations, for which the expeditionary force had no time to 
spare. The most vexatious thing was that the garrison had 
discovered the main column on the chaussee, and it could not 
be doubted that intelligence must have been sent down to the 
lower forts, and most certainly to Foy at Talavera also. 
After a thorough inspection of the ground, Hill concluded that 
he could not hope to master Miravete, and, while it was held 
against him, his guns could not get through the pass which it 
so effectively commanded. It remained to be seen what could 
be done with the forts at the bridge. 
The Almaraz forts crowned two hills on each side of the 
1 This was the Tilson of 1809 : he had lengthened his name. 


Tagus. The stronger, Fort Napoleon, occupied the end of a long 
rising ground, about 100 yards from the water's edge ; below 
it, and connecting with it, was a masonry tite-de-pont covering 
the end of the pontoon-bridge. The weaker work, Fort Ragusa, 
was on an isolated knoll on the north bank, supporting the 
other end of the bridge. Fort Napoleon mounted nine guns, 
had a good but unpalisaded ditch around its bastioned front, 
and a second retrenchment, well palisaded, with a loopholed 
stone tower within. Fort Ragusa was an oblong earthwork 
mounting six guns, and also provided with a central tower, 
It had as outwork a fleche or lunette, commanding the north 
end of the bridge. The small tite-de-pont mounted three guns 
more. Half a mile up-stream was the ruined masonry bridg 
which had formed the old crossing, with the village of Almar 
on the north bank behind it. Between the* ite-de-pont an 
the old bridge were the magazines and storehouses in th< 
village of Lugar Nuevo. 

The garrison of the works consisted of a depleted foreig: 
corps, the regiment de Prusse or 4th Stranger, mustering unde 
400 bayonets, of a battalion of the French 39th of the Line, 
and of two companies of the 6th Leger, from Foy's division, 
with a company of artillery and another of sappers. Th 
whole may have amounted to 1,000 men, of whom 300 we 
isolated in the high-lying Castle of Miravete, five miles fro 
the bridge-head. The governor, a Piedmontese officer nam 
Aubert, had manned Fort Napoleon with two companies 
the 6th and 39th. The foreign corps and one company of th( 
6th were in Fort Ragusa and the bridge-head ; Miravete waj 
held by the centre companies of the 39th. 

Though delay after the French had got the alarm wa; 
dangerous, Hill spent the whole of the 17th in making fruitles: 
explorations for vantage-ground, from which Miravete mighi 
be attacked. None was found, and on the 18th he made up hi: 
mind to adopt a scheme hazardous beyond his original inten 
tion. It would be possible to mask the Castle by a false attack 
in which all his artillery should join, and to lead part of hi 
infantry over the hills to the right, by a gorge called the Pas 
of La Cueva, for a direct attack by escalade, without the helj 
of guns, upon the Almaraz forts. 


The detachment selected for this purpose was Howard's 
brigade (l/50th, l/71st, l/92nd), strengthened by the 6th 
Portuguese Line from Ashworth's brigade, and accompanied by 
20 artillerymen in charge of the ladders. So rough was the 
ground to be covered, that the long 30-foot ladders had to be 
sawn in two, being unwieldy on slopes and angles, as was 
soon discovered when they were taken off the carts for carriage 
by hand. The route that had to be followed was very circuitous, 
and though the forts were only five miles, as the crow flies, 
from the place where the column left the road, it took the whole 
night to reach them. An eye-witness x describes it as a mazy 

i sheep-walk among high brushwood, which could not have been 
used without the help of the experienced peasant-guide who 
led the march. The men had to pass in Indian file over many 

1 of its stretches, and it resulted from long walking in the darkness 
that the rear dropped far behind the van, and nearly lost touch 

[with it. Just before dawn the column reached the hamlet of 

JRomangordo, a mile from the forts, and rested there for some 
time before resuming its march. 
The sun was well up when, at 6 o'clock, the leading company, 

i coming to the edge of a thicket, suddenly saw Fort Napoleon 
only 300 yards in their front. The French had been warned 
that a column had crossed the hills, and had caught some 
glimpse of it, but had lost sight of its latest move : many of 

'the garrison could be seen standing on the ramparts, and 
watching the puffs of smoke round the Castle of Miravete, 
which showed that the false attack on that high-lying strong- 
hold had begun. General Tilson-Chowne was making a noisy 
demonstration before it, using his artillery with much ostenta- 
tion, and pushing up skirmishers among the boulders on the 
sides of the castle-hill 2 . 

Hill was anxious to assault at once, before the sun should 
rise higher, or the garrison of the forts catch sight of him. But 
some time had to be spent to allow a sufficient force to accumu- 
late in the cover where the head of the column was hiding. So 

1 Captain MacCarthy of the 50th. 

* The statement in Jones's Sieges, i. p. 259, that the enemy were 
unaware of the turning column is disproved by the official reports of the 
surviving French officers Seve and Teppe. 


slowly did the companies straggle in, that the General at last 
resolved to escalade at once with the 50th and the right wing 
of the 71st, all that had yet come up. Orders were left behind 
that the left wing of the 71st and the 92nd should attack the 
bridge-head entrenchment when they arrived, and the 6th Portu- 
guese support where they were needed. 

At a little after 6 o'clock the 900 men available, in three 
columns of a half-battalion each, headed by ladder parties, 
started up out of the brake on the crest of the hillside nearest 
Fort Napoleon, and raced for three separate points of its 
enceinte. The French, though taken by surprise, had all their 
preparations ready, and a furious fire broke out upon the 
stormers both from cannon and musketry. Nevertheless all three 
parties reached the goal without any very overwhelming losses, 
jumped into the ditch, and began to apply their ladders to such 
points of the rampart as lay nearest to them. The assault was 
a very daring one — the work was intact, the garrison adequate 
in numbers, the assailants had no advantage from darkness, 
for the sun was well up and every man was visible. All that 
was in their favour was the suddenness of their onslaught, the 
number of separate points at which it was launched, and then 
own splendid dash and decision. Many men fell in the first 
few minutes, and there was a check when it was discovered 
that the ladders were over-short, owing to their having beer 
sawn up before the start. But the rampart had a rather broac 
berm 1 , a fault of construction, and the stormers, discovering 
this, climbed up on it, and dragging some of the ladders witl 
them, relaid them against the upper section of the defences 
which they easily overtopped. By this unexpected devic< 
a footing was established on the ramparts at several point 
simultaneously — Captain Candler of the 50th is said to hav 
been the first man over the parapet : he was pierced by severa 
balls as he sprang down, and fell dead inside. The garrison ha 
kept up a furious fire till the moment when they saw th 

1 The berm is the line where the scarp of the ditch meets the slope < 
the rampart : the scarp should be perpendicular, the rampart-slope tenc 
backward, hence there is a change on this line from the vertical to tl 
obtuse in the profile of the work. The berm should have been only a fo< 
or so wide and was three. 


assailants swarm over the parapet — then, however, there can 

be no doubt that most of them flinched 1 : the governor tried 

to lead a counter-charge, but found few to follow him ; he was 

! surrounded, and, refusing to surrender and striking at those 

' who bade him yield, was piked by a sergeant of the 50th and 

mortally wounded. So closely were the British and French 

mixed that the latter got no chance of manning the inner work, or 

; the loopholed tower which should have served as their rallying- 

point. Many of the garrison threw down their arms, but the 

majority rushed out of the rear gate of the fort towards the 

neighbouring redoubt at the bridge-head. They were so closely 

followed that pursuers and pursued went in a mixed mass into 

1 that work, whose gunners were unable to fire because their 

1 balls would have gone straight into their own flying friends. 

The foreign garrison of the tete-de-jpont made little attempt to 

resist, and fled over the bridge 2 . It is probable that the British 

would have reached the other side along with them if the 

centre pontoons had not been sunk : some say that they were 

struck by a round-shot from Fort Ragusa, which had opened 

a fire upon the lost works ; others declare that some of the 

fugitives broke them, whether by design or by mischance of 

overcrowding 3 . 

This ought to have been the end of Hill's sudden success, 
since passage across the Tagus was now denied him. But the 
enemy were panic-stricken ; and when the guns of Fort 
Napoleon were trained upon Fort Ragusa by Lieutenant Love 
and the twenty gunners who had accompanied Hill's column, 
the garrison evacuated it, and went off with the rest of the 
fugitives in a disorderly flight towards Naval Moral. The 
formidable works of Almaraz had fallen before the assault of 

1 The official report of the French captain, Seve of the 6th Leger, accuses 
the grenadiers of the 39th of giving way and bolting at the critical moment, 
and this is confirmed by the report of the chef de bataillon Teppe of the 
39th, an unwilling witness. 

2 According to Teppe's narrative they left the walls, and many hid in 
the bakehouses, while most of the officers headed the rush for the bridge. 

Foy says that the centre link of the bridge was not a regular pontoon 
but a river boat, which could be drawn out when the garrison wanted to 
open the bridge for any purpose, and being light it collapsed under the 
feet of the flying crowd (p. 163). 


900 men — for the tail of Hill's column arrived on the scene t^ 
find all over 1 . Four grenadiers of the 92nd, wishing to d 
something if they had been disappointed of the expected day' 
work, stripped, swam the river, and brought back several boat 
which had been left moored under Fort Ragusa. By means q 
these communication between the two banks was re-establisheq 
and the fort beyond the river was occupied 2 . 

The loss of the victors was very moderate — it fell mostly o 
the 50th and 71st, for Chowne's demonstration against Miravet 
had been almost bloodless — only one ensign and one private c 
the 6th Cacadores were wounded. But the 50th lost one captai 
and 26 men killed, and seven officers and 93 men wounde 
while the half -battalion of the 71st had five killed and fi\ 
officers and 47 men wounded 3 . The 92nd had two wound 
Thus the total of casualties was 189. 

Of the garrison the 4th Stranger was pretty well destroyed 
those who were neither killed nor taken mostly deserted, a 
its numbers had gone down from 366 in the return of May 
to 88 in that of July 1. The companies of the 39th and 61 
Leger also suffered heavily, since they had furnished the who 
of the unlucky garrison of Fort Napoleon. Hill reports 1 
officers and 262 men taken prisoners, including the mortal 
wounded governor and a chef de bataillon of the 39th 4 . It 
probable that the whole loss of the French was at least 400. 

The trophies taken consisted of a colour of the 4th Strange 
18 guns mounted in the works, an immense store of powder ai 
round-shot, 120,000 musket cartridges, the 20 large pontoo 
forming the bridge, with a store of rope, timbers, ancho] 
carriages, &c, kept for its repair, some well-furnished workshoj 

1 The 92nd and the right wing of the 71st reached the Ute-de-pont ji 
as the fugitives from Fort Napoleon entered it, and swept away t 
garrison. They only lost two wounded. 

2 Gardyne's history of the 92nd gives the names of two of these galls 
men, Gauld and Somerville. 

3 Hill's total of casualties is 2 officers and 31 men killed : 13 offio 
and 143 wounded. The second officer killed was Lieutenant Thiele of 1 
Artillery of the K.G.L., accidentally blown up by a mine on the day 
the evacuation. But two of the wounded officers died. 

4 Teppe by name, whose narrative, written in captivity, is our b b 
source for the French side. It is a frank confession of misbchavi(fl 
by the troops — particularly the 4th Etranger. 


9>\"~§ CUiV'l aWe, Qxjprdi, 


and a large miscellaneous magazine of food and other stores. 
All this was destroyed, the pontoons, &c., being burnt, while 
the powder was used to lay many mines in the forts and bridge- 
head, which were blown up very successfully on the morning 
of the 20th, so that hardly a trace of them remained. Thiele of 
the German artillery, the officer charged with carrying out the 
explosions, was unfortunately killed by accident : a mine had 
apparently failed ; he went back to see to its match, but it 
blew up just as he was inspecting it. 

Having accomplished his purpose with complete success, Hill 
moved off without delay, and by two forced marches reached 
Truxillo and his baggage on the 21st. Here he was quite safe : 
Foy, being too weak to pursue him to any effect, followed 
cautiously, and only reached Miravete (whose garrison he 
relieved) on the 23rd and Truxillo on the 25th, from whence he 
turned back, being altogether too late. He had received news 
of Hill's movement rather late on the 17th, had been misin- 
formed as to his strength, which report made 15,000 men instead 
of the real 7,000, and so had been disposed to act cautiously. 
He had ordered a battalion of the 6th Leger from Naval 
Moral to join the garrison of Almaraz, but it arrived on 
the afternoon of the 19th, only in time to hear from fugitives 
of the disaster 1 . He himself was confident that the forts 
could hold out eight days even against artillery, which was also 
Marmont's calculation. Hence their fall within 48 hours of 
Hill's appearance was a distressing surprise : Foy had calcu- 
lated on being helped not only by D'Armagnac from Talavera 
but by the division of Clausel from Avila, before moving to fight 
Hill and relieve them. 

Wellington appears to have been under the impression that 
this expedition, which Hill had executed with such admirable 
celerity and dispatch, might have been made even more 
decisive, by the capture of the castle of Miravete, if untoward 
circumstances had not intervened. In a letter to Lord Liver- 
pool, written on May 28 2 , he expresses the opinion that Tilson- 
Chowne might have taken it on the night of the 16th — which 

1 D'Armagnac also sent the battalion of Frankfort for the same purpose, 
which arrived late with less excuse. See Foy, p. 375. 
Dispatches, ix. p. 189. 


must appear a hazardous decision to those who look at the 
precipitous position of the place and the strength of its defences. 
He also says that Hill might have stopped at Almaraz for a 
few days more, and have bombarded Miravete with Dickson's 
heavy howitzers, if he had not received false news from Sir 
William Erskine as to Drouet's movements in Estremadura. 
There can be no doubt, as we shall see, about the false intelli- 
gence : but whether the bombardment would have been 
successful is another thing. Probably Wellington considered 
that the garrison would have been demoralized after what had 
happened at Almaraz. 

As to Drouet's movements, having received rather tardy 
notice of Hill's northward march from Merida, he had resolved 
to make a push to ascertain what was left in his front. Lalle- 
mand's dragoons, therefore, pressed out in the direction of Zafra, 
where they came into contact with Slade's outposts and drove 
them in. At the same time Drouet himself, with an infantry 
division and some light cavalry, advanced as far as Don Benito, 
near Medellin, on the 17th May, from whence he pushed patrols 
across the Guadiana as far as Miajadas. This movement, made 
to ascertain whether Hill had departed with his whole corps, 
or whether a large force had been left in Estremadura, was 
reported to Sir William Erskine, the commander of the 2nd 
cavalry division, along with rumours that Soult was across the 
Sierra Morena and closely supporting Drouet. Erskine sent 
on the news to Graham at Portalegre, and to Hill, who was then 
before Miravete, with assertions that Soult was certainly 
approaching. This, as Wellington knew, was unlikely, for the 
Marshal had been before Cadiz on the 11th, and could not 
possibly have crossed the Sierra Morena by the 17th. As 
a matter of fact he only learnt on the 19th, at Chiclana, that 
Hill had started, and Drouet's move was made purely to gain 
information and on his own responsibility. But Graham, 
naturally unaware of this, brought up his two divisions to 
Badajoz, as he had been directed to do if Estremadura were 
attacked during Hill's absence. And Hill himself was certainly 
induced to return promptly from Almaraz by Erskine's letter, 
though it is doubtful whether he would have lingered to besiege 
Miravete even if he had not received it. For Foy might have 


been reinforced by D'Armagnac and the Avila division up to 
a strength which would have made Hill's longer stay on the 
Tagus undesirable. 

Drouet did no more ; indeed, with his own force he was 
quite helpless against Hill, since when he discovered that there 
was a large body of allied troops left in Estremadura, and that 
more were coming up, it would have been mad for him to move 
on Merida, or take any other method of molesting the return of 
the expedition from Almaraz. Though Soult spoke of coming 
with a division to his aid, the succours must be many days on 
the way, while he himself could only act effectively by marching 
northward at once. But if he had taken his own division he 
would have been helpless against Hill, who could have beaten 
such a force ; while if he had crossed the Guadiana with his 

! whole 12,000 men, he would have been cut off from Soult by 
the ' uncontained ' allied force left in Estremadura, which he 

} knew to be considerable. 

But to move upon Almaraz on his own responsibility, and 
without Soult's orders, would have been beyond Drouet's power: 
he was a man under authority, who dared not take such a step. 
And when Soult's dispatches reached him, they directed him 
not to lose touch with Andalusia, but to demonstrate enough 
to bring Hill back. The Marshal did not intend to let Drouet 
get out of touch with him, by bidding him march toward the 

Hill's column, then, was never in any danger. But Wellington, 
who had for a moment some anxiety in his behalf, was deeply 
vexed by Erskine's false intelligence, which had given rise to 
that feeling, and wrote in wrath to Henry Wellesley and Graham x 
concerning the mischief that this very incapable officer had done. 
He was particularly chagrined that Graham had been drawn 
down to Badajoz by the needless alarm, as he was intending 
to bring him back to join the main army within a short time, 
and the movement to Badajoz had removed him three marches 
from Portalegre, so that six days in all would be wasted in 
bringing him back to his original starting-point. It is curious 
that Wellington did not harden his heart to get rid of Erskine 

1 To both on June 1. Dispatches, ix. p. 197. Erskine's name is the blank 
to be filled up. 


after this mishap : but though he wrote bitterly about his 
subordinate's incapacity, he did not remove him. ' Influence ' 
at home was apparently the key to his long endurance : it will 
be remembered that this was by no means the first of Erskine's 
mistakes 1 . 

The fall of the Almaraz forts, as might have been expected, 
was interpreted by Marmont and Soult each from his own point 
of view. The former, rightly as it turned out, wrote to Foy 
that he must be prepared to return to Leon at short notice, and 
that the Army of the Centre and Drouet must guard the 
valley of the Tagus on his departure 2 . Soult, on the other 
hand, having heard of Graham's arrival at Badajoz and Hill's 
return to Merida, argued that the allies were massing on the 
Guadiana for an advance into Andalusia. He made bitter 
complaints to Jourdan that he had violated the rules of military 
subordination by sending a letter to Drouet warning him that 
he might be called up to the Tagus. It was unheard of, he said, 
to communicate directly with a subordinate, who ought to be 
written to only through the channel of his immediate superior. 
He even threatened to resign the command of the Army of the 
South 3 — but when Joseph showed no signs of being terrified by 
this menace, no more was heard of it. The viceroyalty of 
Andalusia was not a thing to be lightly given up. 
i It soon became evident to Wellington that the surprise of 
Almaraz was not to be resented by the enemy in any practical 
form. Foy was not reinforced, nor was Drouet brought up to 
the Tagus : it was clear that the French were too weak to take 
the offensive either in the North or the South, even under 
such provocation. They could not even rebuild the lost bridge : 
the transport from Madrid of a new pontoon train as a substitute 
for the lost boats was beyond King Joseph's power. One or 
two boats were finally got to Almaraz — but nothing that could 
serve as a bridge. Nor were the lost magazines ever replaced. 

It was at this same time that Wellington took in hand 
a scheme for facilitating his communications north and south, 
which was to have a high strategical importance. As long as 
Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz were in the enemy's hands, the 

1 See vol. iv. pp. 133 and 191. 2 Marmont to Foy, June 1. 

3 Sec Jourdan's Mtmoires, pp. 399-400. 


most eastern crossing of the Tagus practicable for the Anglo- 
Portuguese army was the boat-bridge of Villa Velha. But when 
these two fortresses were regained, it was possible to open up 
a line farther east, which had not been available for two years. 
Since Mayne blew up the ancient Roman bridge of Alcantara in 
June 1809 \ the Middle Tagus had been impassable for both sides. 
The allies had usually been in possession of both banks of the 
Tagus in this direction, but so intermittently that it had never 
been worth their while to restore the passage, which would 
have been lost to them whenever the French (as not unfre- 
quently happened) extended their operations into the Coria- 
Zarza Mayor country on the north bank, or the Caceres-Albu- 
querque country on the other. But when the enemy had lost 
both Badajoz and Rodrigo, and had no posts nearer to Alcantara 
than the Upper Tormes, the forts of Miravete, and Zalamea, 
when, moreover, he had adopted a distinctly defensive attitude 
for many months, Wellington thought it worth while to recover 
possession of a passage which would shorten the route from 
Estremadura to the frontiers of Leon by a hundred miles, and 
would therefore give him an advantage of six marches over 
the enemy in transferring troops from north to south. Whether 
Almaraz were again seized and reoccupied by the French 
mattered little : the restoration of Alcantara would be safe and 

Accordingly, on May 24th, Colonel Sturgeon 2 and Major 
Todd of the Royal Staff Corps were sent to Alcantara to report 
on the practicability of restoring the broken arch, which, 
owing to the immense depth of the canon of the Tagus, overhung 
the river by no less than 140 feet. It was intended that if the 
engineering problem should prove too hard, a flying bridge of 
rafts, boats, or pontoons should be established at the water 
level 3 . But Sturgeon and Todd did more than Wellington 
had expected, and succeeded in a very few days in establishing 
a sort of suspension-bridge of ropes between the two shattered 

1 See vol. ii. p. 444. 

8 An officer probably better remembered by the general reader as the 
husband of Sarah Curran, Robert Emmet's sometime fiancee, than as the 
executor of some of Wellington's most important engineering works. He 
fell before Bayonne in 1814. 

8 See Wellington to Graham, 23rd and 24th May. Dispatches, ix. pp. 163-5. 


piers of Trajan's great structure. The system adopted was 
that of placing at each end of the broken roadway a very 
large and solid beam, clamped to the Roman stones, by being 
sunk in channels cut in them. These beams being made 
absolutely adhesive to the original work, served as solid bases 
from which a series of eighteen cables were stretched over the 
gap. Eight more beams, with notches cut in them to receive 
the cables, were laid at right angles across the parallel ropes, 
and lashed tight to them. The long cables were strained taut 
with winches : a network of rope yarn for a flooring was laid 
between the eight beams, and on this planks were placed, 
while a screen of tarpaulins supported on guide-ropes acted as 
parapets. The structure was sound enough to carry not only 
infantry and horses, but heavy artillery, yet could always be 
broken up in a short time if an enemy had ever appeared in 
the neighbourhood \ Several times it was rolled up, and then 

When the completion of the repairs of Alcantara and the 
destruction of the French bridge of Almaraz are taken together, 
it must be concluded that Wellington's work in May gave him 
an advantage over the French of at least ten or twelve marches 
in moving troops from north to south or vice versa. For the 
route from Ciudad Rodrigo to Merida, now open to him, had 
at least that superiority over the only itinerary of the enemy, 
which would be that by Avila, Talavera, Toledo, and the 
eastern passes of the Sierra Morena. Though the narrow bridge 
of Arzobispo on the Middle Tagus still remained in French 
hands, it did not lead on to any good road to Estremadura oij 
Andalusia, but on to the defiles of the Mesa d'Ibor and thej 
ravines of the Sierra de Guadalupe. No large force coulc 
march or feed in those solitudes. 

All was now ready for the advance upon the Tormes, whicl 
Wellington had made up his mind to execute. 

1 The best and most elaborate account of this is in Leith Hay, i 
pp. 300-1. 



It was not till June 13th that Wellington crossed the Agueda 
and began his march upon Salamanca, the first great offensive 
movement against the main fighting army of the French 
since the advance to Talavera in 1809. But for many days 
beforehand his troops were converging on Fuente Guinaldo 
and Ciudad Rodrigo from their widely-spread cantonments. 
Graham's divisions quitted Portalegre on May 30th, and some 
of the other troops, which had been left on the western side of 
the Beira, had also to make an early start. Every available 
infantry unit of the Anglo-Portuguese army had been drawn 
in, save the 2nd Division and Hamilton's Portuguese — left as 
usual with Hill in Estremadura — and Power's new Portuguese 
brigade — once the garrisons of Elvas and Abrantes — which had 
become available for the field since the fall of Badajoz made 
it possible to place those fortresses in charge of militia. Its 
arrival made Hill stronger by 2,000 in infantry than he had ever 
been before, and he was also left the three brigades (Long's and 
Slade's British and John Campbell's Portuguese) of Erskine's 
cavalry division. The total was 18,000 men. Wellington's own 
main army, consisting of the seven other infantry divisions, 
Pack's and Bradford's Portuguese brigades, and the cavalry of 
Anson, Bock, Le Marchant, and Victor Alten, made up a force 
of 48,000 men, of which 3,500 were cavalry : there were only 
eight British and one Portuguese batteries with the army — a 
short allowance of 54 guns. 

But though these 48,000 men constituted the striking force, 
which was to deal the great blow, their action was to be sup- 
ported by a very elaborate and complicated system of diver- 
sions, which were intended to prevent the French armies of the 
South, North, Centre, and Aragon from sending any help to 


Marmont, the foe whom Wellington was set on demolishing. 
It is necessary to explain the concentric scheme by which it 
was intended that pressure should be brought to bear on all 
the outlying French armies, at the same moment at which the 
Anglo-Portuguese main body crossed the Agueda. 

Soult had the largest force — over 50,000 men, as a recently 
captured morning-state revealed to his adversary 1 . But he 
could not assemble more than some 24,000 men, unless he 
abandoned the siege of Cadiz and the kingdom of Granada — 
half his army was pinned down to occupation- work. Wherefore 
Wellington judged that his field-force could be ' contained ' by 
Hill, if only means were found of preventing him from reinforc- 
ing Drouet's divisions in Estremadura by any appreciable 1 
succours. This means lay to hand in the roving army of | 
Ballasteros, whose random schemes of campaign were often ' 
irrational, but had the solitary advantage of being quite j 
inscrutable. He might do anything — and so was a most | 
tiresome adversary for Soult to deal with, since his actions! 
could not be foreseen. At this moment Wellington had urged the ! 
Cadiz Regency to stir up Ballasteros to activity, and had' 
promised that, if Soult concentrated against him, Hill should 
press in upon Drouet, and so call off the Marshal's attention.! 
Similarly if Soult concentrated against Hill, Ballasteros was to 
demonstrate against Seville, or the rear of the Cadiz Lines. 1 
There was always the possibility that the Spanish general 1 
might refuse to obey the orders of his Government, or that he! 
might commit himself to some rash enterprise and get badly 
beaten. Both these chances had to be risked. The one that 
occurred was that Ballasteros took up the idea desired, but 
acted too early and too incautiously, and sustained a severe 
check at the battle of Bornos (June 1). Fortunately he was 
4 scotched but not slain,' and kept together a force large enougW 
to give Soult much further trouble, though he did not prevent] 
the Marshal from sending reinforcements to Drouet anal 
putting Hill upon the defensive. Of this more in its due place, j 

So much for the diversion against Soult. On the other flank 
Wellington had prepared a similar plan for molesting the) 

1 See Wellington to Henry Wellesley at Cadiz, June 7. Dispatches, ixj 
p. 219. 


French in the Asturias, and threatening Marmont's flank and 
rear, at the same moment that his front was to be assailed. The 
force here available was Abadia's Army of Galicia, which 
nominally counted over 24,000 men, but had 6,000 of them 
shut up in the garrisons of Corunna, Ferrol, and Vigo. About 
16,000 could be put into the field by an effort, if only Abadia 
were stirred up to activity. But there were many hindrances : 
this general was (like most of his predecessors) at strife with 
the Galician Junta. He was also very jealous of Sir Howard 
Douglas, the British Commissioner at Corunna, who was in 
favour with the Junta and people, and was inclined to resent 
any advice offered by him \ His army was not only (as in 
1810-11) very short of cavalry — there were only about 400 
effective sabres — but also of artillery. For the Cadiz govern- 
; ment, searching for troops to send against the rebels of South 
\ America, had recently drafted off several batteries, as well as 
| several foot regiments, to the New World. The most effective 
I units had been taken, to the wild indignation of the Galicians, 
who wanted to keep the troops that they had raised for their 
own protection. There were only about 500 trained artillery- 
men left in Galicia, and when deduction was made for the 
garrisons of Ferrol, Vigo, and Corunna, very few remained for 
the active army. Abadia had, therefore, many excuses to offer 
for taking the field late, and with insufficient equipment 2 . It 
was fortunate that his superior, Castafios, who commanded (as 
Captain-General both of Estremadura and Galicia) all the troops 
in western Spain, fell in completely with Wellington's plan, 
and brought pressure to bear upon his subordinate, coming up 
to Santiago in person to expedite matters. 

The part which the Army of Galicia was to play in the 
general scheme was that of marching upon Astorga, and laying 
siege to the considerable French garrison which was isolated 
in that rather advanced position. If Marmont should attempt 
to succour it, he would be left weak in front of the oncoming 

An extraordinary case of Abadia's ill will occurred in this spring : 
a damaged transport, carrying British troops to Lisbon, having put in to 
Corunna to repair, permission was refused for the men to land : apparently 
it was suspected that they were trying to garrison Corunna. 

For all this Galician business see the Life of Sir Howard Douglas, 
pp. 120-60. 

OMAN. V * 


British invasion. If he did not, its fall would turn and expose 
his right flank, and throw all the plains of northern Leon into 
the power of the allies. A move in force upon Astorga would 
also have some effect on the position of General Bonnet in the 
Asturias, and ought certainly to keep him uneasy, if not to 
draw him away from his conquests. 

It will be remembered that Bonnet had been directed to 
reoccupy the Asturias by Napoleon's special command, and by 
no means to Marmont's liking 1 . He marched from Leon on 
May 15, by the road across the pass of Pajares, which he had 
so often taken before on similar expeditions. The Asturians 
made no serious resistance, and on May 17-18 Bonnet seized 
Oviedo and its port of Gijon. But, as in 1811, when he had 
accomplished this much, and planted some detachments in the 
coast towns, his division of 6,000 men was mainly immobilized, 
and became a string of garrisons rather than a field-force. It 
was observed by Porlier's Cantabrian bands on its right hand, 
and by Castafion's division of the Army of Galicia on its left, 
and was not strong enough to hunt them down, though it could 
prevent them from showing themselves anywhere in the 
neighbourhood of Oviedo. 

But if the Galicians should lay siege to Astorga, and push) 
advanced guards beyond it, in the direction of the city of 
Leon, it was clear that Bonnet's position would be threatened 
and his communications with his chief, Marmont, imperilled 
Wellington, who knew from intercepted dispatches the impor 
tance attached by the Emperor to the retention of the Asturias 
judged that Bonnet would not evacuate it, but would spenc 
his energy in an attempt to hold back the Galicians and keej 
open his connexion with Leon. He thus hoped that the Frencl 
division at Oviedo would never appear near Salamanca — ai 
expectation in which he was to be deceived, for Marmon 
(disregarding his master's instructions) ordered the evacuatioi 
of the Asturias the moment that he discovered the strength 
the attack that was being directed against his front on th 
Tormes. Hence Wellington's advance cleared the Asturi 
of the enemy, and enabled the Galicians to besiege Astorg; 
unmolested for two months — good results in themselves, b 
: See above, p. 210. 


not the precise benefits that he had hoped to secure by putting 
the Galician army in motion. 

No item of assistance being too small to be taken into con- 
sideration, Wellington also directed Silveira to advance from 
the Tras-os-Montes, with the four militia regiments of that 
province \ to cross the Spanish frontier and blockade Zamora, 
I the outlying French garrison on the Douro, which covered 
> Marmont's flank, as Astorga did his rear. To enable this not 
! too trustworthy irregular force to guard itself from sudden 
attacks, Wellington lent it a full brigade of regular cavalry 2 , 
\ which was entrusted to General D' Urban, who dropped the 
post of Chief-of-the-Staff to Beresford to take up this small 
but responsible charge. His duty was to watch the country 
on each side of the Douro in Silveira's front, so as to prevent 
; him from being surprised, and generally to keep Wellington 
informed about Marmont's right wing, when he should begin 
| to concentrate. Toro, only 20 miles farther up the Douro than 
l Zamora, was another French garrison, and a likely place for 
the Marshal to use as one of his minor bases. Silveira being 
as rash as he was enterprising, it was D'Urban's task to see 
: that he should be warned betimes, and not allowed to get into 
trouble. He was to retreat on Carvajales and the mountains 
beyond the Esla if he were attacked by a superior force. 

A much more serious diversion was prepared to distract 
the free movement of the French Army of the North, from 
which Caffarelli might naturally be expected to send heavy 
detachments for Marmont's assistance, when the British 
striking-force should advance on Salamanca. Caffarelli's old 
enemies were the patriot bands of Cantabria and Navarre, who 
had given his predecessor, Dorsenne, so much trouble earlier 
in the year. Mina, on the borders of Navarre, Aragon, and Old 
Castile, was very far away, and not easy to communicate with 
or to bring into the general plan, though his spirit was excellent. 
But the so-called ' Seventh Army,' under Mendizabal, was near 
enough to be treated as a serious factor in the general scheme. 
This force consisted of the two large bands under Porlier in 

Chaves, Braganza, Miranda, Villa Real. 

Silveira already had Nos. 11 and 12, D'Urban brought up No. 1, which 
had not hitherto operated on this frontier. 

Z 2 


Cantabria, and Longa in the mountains above Santander, each 
of which was several thousands strong : these were supposed 
to be regular divisions, though their training left much to be 
desired : in addition there were several considerable guerrilla 
' partidas ' under Merino, Salazar, Saornil, and other chiefs, 
who lived a hunted life in the provinces of Burgos, Palencia, 
and Avila, and were in theory more or less dependent on 
Mendizabal. The chief of the Seventh Army was requested to 1 
do all that he could to keep Caffarelli employed during the 
month of June — a task that quite fell in with his ideas — he 
executed several very daring raids into Old Castile, one of which 
put the garrison of Burgos in great terror, as it was surprised j 
at a moment when all its better items chanced to be absent, 
and nothing was left in the place but depots and convalescents \ 

But the main distraction contrived to occupy the French 
Army of the North was one for which Wellington was not 
primarily responsible, though he approved of it when the 
scheme was laid before him. This was a naval expedition to 
attack the coast-forts of Cantabria and Biscay, and open up 
direct communication with Mendizabal's bands from the side 
of the sea. The idea was apparently started by Sir Howard 
Douglas and Sir Home Popham, the former of whom was 
a great believer in the guerrilleros, and the latter a strong 
advocate of the striking power of the navy. Nothing serious 
had been done on the Biscay coast since the two expeditions of 
1810, of which the former had been very successful, but the 
latter had ended in the disastrous tempest which wrecked 
Renovales's flotilla on that rocky shore 2 . Lord Liverpool con- 
sented to give Popham two battalions of marines and a company 
of artillery, to add to the force provided by the crews of the 
Venerable, his flagship, five frigates (Surveillante, Rhin, Isis, 
Diadem, Medusa), and several smaller vessels. The plan was tc, 
proceed eastward along the coast from Gijon, to call dow 
Longa and Porlier to blockade each isolated French garriso 
from the land side, and to batter it with heavy ship guns fro 
the water. The opportunity was to be taken at the same tim 
of making over to the Cantabrian bands a large store of musket; 
and munitions which had been prepared for them. The arrange 

1 See Thicbault, Mtmoircs, v. p. 561. 2 See vol. iii. pp. 48G-7 


ments were made in May, and Popham's squadron was ready- 
to move precisely at the same moment that Wellington crossed 
the Agueda. Its first descent was made on June 17th, a day 
exactly suitable for alarming the Army of the North at the 
same time that Marmont's first appeals for help were likely to 
reach Caffarelli. The plan, as we shall see, worked exceedingly 
well, and the fact that the Army of Portugal got no reinforce- 
ments from Burgos or Biscay was due entirely to the dismay 
caused to Caffarelli by this unexpected descent on his rear. 
He conceived that the squadron carried a large landing force, 
and that he was about to see Biscay slip out of his hands. The 
tale of this useful diversion will be told in its due place. 

There was yet one more item in the long list of outlying 
distractions on which Wellington relied for the vexing of the 
French. He was strongly of opinion that Suchet would spare 
troops to reinforce King Joseph at Madrid, if his own invasion 
of Leon had a prosperous start. Indeed, he somewhat over- 
valued the Duke of Albufera's will and power to interfere in 
central Spain, his idea being that King Joseph had a much 
more direct control over the Valencian and Aragonese armies 
than was really the case. One of the king's intercepted dis- 
patches, directing Suchet to send troops into La Mancha, had 
fallen into his hands, and he was unaware that the Marshal 
had refused to obey it, and had found plausible reasons to 
cloak his disobedience \ 

The opportunity of finding means to harass Suchet depended 
on the general posture of affairs in the Mediterranean caused 
by the outbreak of the Russian war. As long as Napoleon 
kept a large army in Italy, there was always a possibility that 
he might some day try a descent on Sicily, where the authority 
of King Ferdinand rested on the bayonets of a strong British 
garrison. There were a dozen red-coated battalions always 
ready in Sicily, beside the rather inefficient forces of King 
Ferdinand. In September 1810 Murat had massed a Franco- 
Neapolitan army at Reggio, and tried an actual invasion, which 
ended ignominiously in the capture of the only two battalions 
that succeeded in landing. But by the early spring of 1812 it 
was known that nearly all the French troops in Italy had been 
See above, p. 304. The intercepted cipher is in the Scovell Papers. 


moved northward, and a great part of Murat's Neapolitan 
army with them. By April, indeed, there was only one French 
division left in the whole Peninsula, nearly all the old ' Army 
of Italy ' having marched across the Alps. Lord William 
Bentinck, the commander of the British forces in Sicily, had 
early notice of these movements, and being a man of action and 
enterprising mind, though too much given to wavering councils 
and rapid changes of purpose, was anxious to turn the new 
situation to account. He was divided between two ideas — 
the one which appealed to him most was to make a bold descent 
on the under-garrisoned Italian peninsula, either to stir up 
trouble in Calabria — where the ruthless government of Murat's 
military satraps had barely succeeded in keeping down rebellion, 
but had not crushed its spirit — or, farther away, in the former 
dominions of the Pope and the small dukes of the Austrian 
connexion. But the memory of the fruitless attempt against 
the Italian mainland in 1809 under Sir John Stuart survived 
as a warning : it was doubtful whether the occasional adven- 
turers who came to Palermo to promise insurrection in northern 
Italy had any backing \ and though Calabria was a more 
promising field, it was to be remembered that such troops 
as the enemy still retained were mainly concentrated there. 
Thus it came to pass that Lord William Bentinck at times 
despaired of all Italian expeditions, and thought of sending 
a force to Catalonia or Valencia to harass Suchet. ' I can- 
not but imagine,' he wrote, * that the occasional disembarka- 
tion at different points of a large regular force must considerably 
annoy the enemy, and create an important diversion for other 
Spanish operations 2 .' But when he wrote this, early in the 
year, he was hankering after descents on Elba and Corsica 
the latter a most wild inspiration ! These schemes the ministry 
very wisely condemned : Lord Liverpool wrote in reply that 
4 though there might be a considerable degree of dissatisfaction, 
and even of ferment, pervading the greater part of Italy,' there 
was no evidence of any systematic conspiracy to shake off the 
yoke of France. Corsica and Elba, even if conquered, would 

1 See Lord Wellesley to Lord W. Bentinck, December 27, 1811, in 
Wellington's Supplementary Dispatches, vii. p. 249. 

* Bentinck to Lord Liverpool, January 25, 1812, ibid., pp. 290-1. 


only be of secondary importance. A diversion to be made upon 
the east coast of Spain would be far the best way in which the 
disposable force in Sicily could be employed. Wellington had 
been informed of the proposal, and might probably be able 
to lend part of the garrison of Cadiz, to make the expedition 
more formidable. Sir Edward Pellew, the admiral commanding 
on the Mediterranean station, would be able to give advice, and 
arrange for the co-operation of the fleet \ Lord Liverpool 
wrote on the next day (March 4) to inform Wellington of the 
answer that had been made to Bentinck, but pointed out that 
probably the aid could only be given from May to October, as 
the expedition would depend on the fleet, and naval men 
thought that it would be impossible to keep a large squadron 
in attendance on the Sicilian force during the winter months. 
The troops would probably have to return to their old quarters 
at the close of autumn 2 . 

Wellington, as it chanced, was already in communication 
with Bentinck, for the latter had sent his brother, Lord 
Frederick, to Lisbon, with a dispatch for the Commander-in- 
Chief in Portugal, in which he stated that he leaned himself 
to the Corsican scheme, but that if the home government 
disliked it, he would be prepared to send in April or May an 
I expedition of 10,000 men to operate against Suchet 3 . The 
letter from London reached Wellington first, about March 20th 4 , 
and was a source of great joy to him, as he saw that the Cabinet 
intended to prohibit the Italian diversion, and wished to direct 
Bentinck's men towards Spain. He wrote to London and to 
Palermo, to state that a descent upon the coast of Catalonia 
seemed to him ' the most essential object.' It should be aimed 
at Barcelona or Tarragona : it might not succeed so far as its 
immediate object was concerned, but it would have the infallible 
result of forcing Suchet to come up with all his available forces 
from Valencia, and would prevent him from interfering in the 

1 Liverpool to Bentinck, March 4. Wellington's Supplementary Dis- 
patches, vii. p. 300. 

2 Liverpool to Wellington, March 5, ibid., p. 301. 

3 Bentinck to Wellington, February 23, ibid., p. 296. 

4 The answer to Lord Liverpool went off on March 20, that to Bentinck 
on March 24th. 


affairs of western and central Spain during the next campaign. 
Ten thousand men, even with such aid as Lacy and the Catalan I 
army might give, were probably insufficient to deal with a place j 
of such strength as Barcelona ; but Tarragona, which was 
weakly garrisoned, might well be taken. Even if it were not, 
a great point would be gained in opening up communication j 
with the Catalans, and throwing all the affairs of the French | 
in eastern Spain into confusion. Bentinck was advised in the 
strongest terms to land north of the Ebro, and not in Valencia : i 
an attack on Catalonia would draw Suchet out of Valencia, j 
which would then fall of its own accord. Wellington added, j 
writing to Lord Liverpool only, not to Bentinck, that he did I 
not see how any appreciable aid could be got from the Cadiz j 
garrison, or those of Tarifa or Cartagena 1 : the British regi- j 
ments there had been cut down to a necessary minimum, but i 
there were 1,400 Portuguese and two foreign regiments, of 
whom some might possibly be spared. The government must 
give him a definite order to detach such and such battalions, i 
and it should be done — the responsibility being their own. Lord j 
Frederick Bentinck arrived from Palermo at Badajoz just after ! 
that place fell : Wellington charged him with additional advices i 
for his brother, to the effect that he would send him a siege- 
train and officers and gunners to work it, which might serve 
to batter Tarragona, if that proved possible. Though he could 
himself spare no British troops, the Spanish Regency should 
be urged to lend, for an expedition to Catalonia, two divisions, 
one under Roche at Alicante, the other under Whittingham in 
Majorca, which consisted each of 3,000 men recently entrusted 
for training to those British officers. Their aid was hardly likely 
to be refused, and they had been better trained, fed, and clothed 
of late than other Spanish troops. Wellington was not deceived 
in this expectation, the Regency very handsomely offered to 
place both divisions at Bentinck's disposition 2 , and they 

1 Whither the 2/67th, a company of artillery, and five companies of 
De Watteville's Swiss regiment had been sent, on the news of Blake's 
disasters before Valencia. Dispatches, viii. p. 448. 

2 The best source of information about these subsidized corps is the life 
of Sir Samford Whittingham, who raised and disciplined one of them in 
Majorca, on the skeletons of the old regiments of Cordova, Burgos, and 
5th Granaderos Provinciales. He had only 1,500 men on January 1, 1812 


turned out to have swelled in numbers of late, owing to vigorous 
recruiting of dispersed men from Blake's defunct army. The 
available figure was far over the 6,000 of which Wellington 
had spoken. 

There seemed, therefore, in May to be every probability that 
a force of some 17,000 men might be available for the descent 
on Catalonia which Wellington advised : and both Admiral 
Pellew and Roche and Whittingham made active preparations 
to be found in perfect readiness when Lord William Bentinck 
should start off the nucleus of the expeditionary force from 
Palermo 1 . Wellington had fixed the third week in June as the 
date at which the appearance of the diversion would be most 
effective 2 . On June 5th he was able to state that two separate 
divisions of transports had already been sent off from Lisbon, 
one to Alicante and one to Majorca, to pick up the two Spanish 

Now, however, came a deplorable check to the plan, which 
only became known to Wellington when he had already com- 
mitted himself to his campaign against Marmont. Bentinck 
could never get out of his head the original idea of Italian 
conquest which he had laid before the Cabinet in January. 
There was no doubt that it had been discouraged by the home 
government, and that he had received very distinct instructions 
that Spain was to be the sphere of his activity, and that he was 
to take Wellington into his councils. But Lord Liverpool's 
dispatch had contained the unfortunate phrase that ' unless 
the project of resistance to the French power in Italy should 
appear to rest upon much better grounds than those of which 
we are at present apprised,' the diversion to Catalonia was the 

and 2,200 on February 21, but had worked them up to over 3,000 by April. 
Roche, who had to work on the cadres of Canarias, Alicante, Chinchilla, 
Voluntarios de Aragon, 2nd of Murcia, and Corona, had 5,500 men ready 
on March 1, and more by May. Whittingham maintains that his battalions 
always did their duty far better than other divisions, commanded by 
officers with unhappy traditions of defeat, and attributes the previous 
miserable history of the Murcian army to incapacity and poor spirit in 
high places. 
1 Henry Wellesley to Wellington. Supplementary Dispatches, vii. p. 320. 
See as evidence of eagerness Whittingham's letter to Pellew of May 28 
in the former's Memoirs, p. 161. 


obvious course V This gave a discretionary power to Bentinck, 
if he should judge that evidence of discontent in Italy had 
cropped up in unexpected quantity and quality since March. It 
does not appear, to the unprejudiced observer, that such 
evidence was forthcoming in May. But Bentinck, with his 
original prejudice in favour of a descent on Italy running in his 
brain, chose to take certain secret correspondence received from 
the Austrian general Nugent, and other sources, as justification 
for holding back from the immediate action in eastern Spain, 
on which Wellington had been led to rely. No troops sailed 
from Palermo or Messina till the very end of June, and then the 
numbers sent were much less than had been promised, and 
the directions given to Maitland, the general entrusted with the 
command, were by no means satisfactory 2 . The underlying 
fact would appear to be that, since March, Bentinck had begun 
to be alarmed at the intrigues of the Queen of Sicily, and feared 
to send away British troops so far afield as Spain. That 
notorious princess and her incapable spouse had been deprived 
in the preceding autumn of their ancient status as absolute 
sovereigns, and a Sicilian constitution and parliament, some- 
what on the British model, had been called into being. For 
some time it had been supposed that Caroline, though incensed, 
was powerless to do harm, and the native Sicilians were un 
doubtedly gratified by the change. But Bentinck present! 
detected traces of a conspiracy fostered by the Queen amon, 
the Italian and mercenary troops employed by the Sicilia 
government : and, what was more surprising, it was suspect 
(and proved later on) that the court had actually opened u 
negotiations with Napoleon and even with Murat, in order t 
get rid of the English from Sicily at all costs 3 . In view of tfo 

1 Liverpool to Bentinck, 4th March, quoted above. 

2 See Wellington to Lord W. Bentinck in Dispatches, ix. pp. 60-1. 

3 That veritable ' stormy petrel of politics,' Sir Robert Wilson, was 
passing through Sicily in May, and seems to have acted a mischievous part 
in visiting the Queen, and allowing her to set before him all her grievances 
against Bentinck, and the ' Jacobin Parliament ' that he was setting up 
She told Wilson that Bentinck ' went to jails and took evidence of miserable 
wretches, actual malefactors or suspects, inducing them to say what he 
wished for his plans, and acting without any substantiating facts.' As 
to the army Wilson gathered that ' the Neapolitan soldiery hate us to 
a man, the Germans would adhere to us, the native Sicilians at least not 


fact that there were 8,000 Italian and foreign troops of doubtful 
disposition quartered in Sicily, Bentinck was seized with 
qualms at the idea of sending away a large expedition, mainly 
composed of British regiments. In the end he compromised, by 
detaching only three British and two German Legion battalions, 
along with a miscellaneous collection of fractions of several 
foreign corps, making 7,000 men in all 1 . They only arrived 
off the coast of Catalonia on July 31st, and Maitland's freedom 
of operations was hampered by instructions to the effect that 
'the division of the Sicilian army detached has for its first 
object the safety of Sicily ; its employment on the Spanish 
coast is temporary.' He was told that he was liable to be 
withdrawn at any moment, if complications arose in Sicily or 
Italy, and was not to consider himself a permanent part of the 
British army in Spain. Yet at the same time that Bentinck 
had given these orders, the home government had told Welling- 
ton to regard the expeditionary force as placed at his disposal, 
and authorized him to send directions to it. 

All this worked out less unhappily than might have been 
expected ; for though Wellington got little practical military 
help from the Sicilian corps, and though Maitland's operations 
were most disappointing and started far too late, yet the know- 
ledge that great transport squadrons were at Alicante and 
Majorca, and the rumour that a large force was coming from 
Sicily, most certainly kept Suchet in a state of alarm, and 
prevented him from helping Soult or King Joseph. It is 
interesting to find from his correspondence 2 that in the earliest 
days of July he was anxiously watching the ships at Alicante, 
and expecting a descent either on Valencia or on Catalonia, 
though Maitland was yet far away, and did not appear off 

act against us.' But there were only 2,000 Sicilians and 1,900 Germans, 
and 8,000 Neapolitans and other Italians, eminently untrustworthy. [So 
untrustworthy were they, indeed, that the Italian corps sent to Spain in the 
autumn deserted by hundreds to the French.] See Wilson's Private Diary, 
1812-15, pp. 35-62. 

For details, see table in Appendix no. XIII. 

Suchet's correspondence (in the Archives of the French War Ministry) 

begins to be anxious from July 6 onward. On that date he hears that ships 

are at Alicante to take Roche on board, who is to join a very large English 

I force, and 15,000 (!) men from Majorca. On July 13th he hears that 

t Maitland is to have 17,000 men, though only 3,000 British regulars. 


Palamos till July 31. The fear of the descent was an admirable 
help to Wellington — perhaps more useful than its actual 
appearance at an early date might have been, since the expe- 
ditionary troops were decidedly less in numbers than Wellington 
had hoped or Suchet had feared. At the same time the 
news that the Sicilian force had not sailed, and perhaps might 
never appear, reached Salamanca at one of the most critical 
moments of the campaign, and filled Wellington with fears 
that the Army of Valencia might already be detaching troops 
against him, while he had calculated upon its being entirely 
distracted by the projected demonstration \ The news that 
Maitland had sailed at last, only came to hand some time 
after the battle of Salamanca had been won, when the whole 
position in Spain had assumed a new and more satisfactory 

Such were the subsidiary schemes with which Wellington 
supported his main design of a direct advance against Mar-! 
mont's army. Some of them worked well — Hill, Home 
Popham, and Mendizabal did all, and more than all, that had 
been expected of them, in the way of containing large French 
forces. Others accomplished all that could in reason have 
been hoped — such was the case with Silveira and Ballasteros. 
Others fell far below the amount of usefulness that had been 
reckoned upon — both the Galician army and the Sicilian army 
proved most disappointing in the timing of their movements 
and the sum of their achievements. But on the whole the 
plan worked — the French generals in all parts of Spain were 
distracted, and Marmont got little help from without. 

It is certain that, at the moment of Wellington's starting or 
his offensive campaign, the thing that gave him most trouble 
and anxiety was not the timing or efficacy of the various diver 

1 Wellington to Lord Bathurst, July 14 : 'I have this day receivec 
a letter from Lord W. Bentinck of the 9th of June, from which I an 
concerned to observe that his Lordship does not intend to carry intc 
execution the operation on the east coast of the Peninsula, until he shal 
have tried the success of another plan on the coast of Italy. I am appre 
hensive that this determination may bring upon us additional forces of th< 
Army of Aragon: but I still hope that I shall be able to retain at the clos< 
of this campaign the acquisitions made at its commencement.' Dispatches 
ix. p. 285. 


sions that he had planned, but a purely financial problem. It 
was now a matter of years since the money due for the pay and 
maintenance of the army had been coming in with terrible 
unpunctuality. Officers and men had grown to regard it as 
normal that their pay should be four or six months in arrears : 
the muleteers and camp followers were in even worse case. 
And the orders for payment {vales as they were called) issued 
by the commissariat to the peasantry, were so tardily settled 
in cash, that the recipients would often sell them for half or two- 
thirds of their face value to speculators in Lisbon, who could 
afford to wait many months for the money. 

This state of things was deplorable : but it did not proceed, 
as Napier usually hints, and as Wellington himself seems some- 
times to have felt, from perversity on the part of the home 
government. It was not the case that there was gold or silver 
in London, and that the ministers did not send it with sufficient 
promptness. No one can be so simple as to suppose that 
Lord Liverpool, Mr. Perceval, the Marquess of Wellesley, or 
Lord Castlereagh, did not understand that the Army of Portugal 
must have cash, or it would lose that mobility which was its 
great strength. Still less would they wittingly starve it, when 
the fortunes of the ministry were bound up with the successful 
conduct of the war. 

But the years 1811-12, as has been already pointed out in 
the last volume of this work, were those of the greatest stringency 
in the cash-market of Great Britain. The country was abso- 
lutely drained dry of metallic currency in the precious metals : 
no silver had been coined at the Mint since the Revolutionary 
war began : no guineas since 1798. England was transacting 
all her internal business on bank-notes, and gold was a rare 
commodity, only to be got by high prices and much searching. 
This was the time when the Jews of Portsmouth used to board 
every home-coming transport, to offer convalescents or sailors 
27^., or even more, in paper for every guinea that they had on 
them. The Spanish dollar, though weighing much less than an 
English five-shilling piece (when that valuable antiquity could 
be found 1 ), readily passed for six shillings in paper. And even 

No silver crowns had been coined since 1760 at the Mint. They weighed 
463 grains : the Spanish dollar only 415 grains. 


this coin could not now be got so easily as in 1809 or 1810, | 
for the growing state of disturbance in the Spanish- American I 
colonies was beginning to affect the annual import of silver [ 
from the mines of Mexico and Peru, which had for a long time j 
been the main source from which bullion for Europe was 
procured. To buy dollars at Cadiz with bills on London was! 
becoming a much more difficult business. In May 1812 a special 
complication was introduced — Lord William Bentinck wishing) 
to provide Spanish coin for the expedition which was about toj 
sail for Catalonia, sent agents to Gibraltar, who bought with! 
Sicilian gold all the dollars that they could procure, giving aj 
reckless price for them, equivalent to over six shillings a dollar,! 
and competing with Wellington's regular correspondents who| 
were at the same moment offering only 5s. 4<d. or 5s. 6d. for thej 
coin. Of course the higher offer secured the cash, and Wellington! 
made bitter complaints that the market had been spoilt, andi 
that he suddenly found himself shut out from a supply on! 
which he had hitherto reckoned with security 1 . But the; 
competition was only transient, though very tiresome at 
a moment when silver coin was specially wanted for payments! 
in Leon. For, as Wellington remarked, the people about 
Salamanca had never seen the British army before, and would 
be wanting to do business on a prompt cash basis, not being 
accustomed to credit, as were the Portuguese. 

The army started upon the campaign with a military chest 
in the most deplorable state of depletion. ' We are absolutely 
bankrupt,' wrote Wellington, ' the troops are now five months 
in arrears instead of one month in advance. The staff have 
not been paid since February ; the muleteers not since June' 
1811 ! and we are in debt in all parts of the country. I an 
obliged to take money sent me by my brother [Henry Wellesley 
British Minister at Cadiz] for the Spaniards, in order to give 
my own troops a fortnight's pay, who are really suffering foi 
want of money 2 .' Some weeks before this last complaint 
Wellington had sounded an even louder note of alarm. ' Wtj 
owe not less than 5,000,000 dollars. The Portuguese troop: 
and establishments are likewise in the greatest distress, anc 

See Wellington to Lord Bathurst. Dispatches, vii. p. 370. 
Ibid., vii. p. 319. 


it is my opinion, as well as that of Marshal Bcresford, that we 
ust disband part of that army, unless I can increase the 
onthly payments of the subsidy. The Commissary-General 
s this day informed me that he is very apprehensive that he 
will not be able to make good his engagements for the payment 
for the meat for the troops. If we are obliged to stop that 
payment, your Lordship may as well prepare to recall the army, 
for it will be impossible to carry up salt meat (as well as bread) 
to the troops from the sea-coast. ... It is not improbable that 
we may not be able to take advantage of the enemy's compara- 
tive weakness in this campaign for sheer want of money V One 
almost feels that Wellington is here painting the position of 
the army in the blackest possible colours, in order to bring 
pressure on his correspondent at home. But this dismal 
; picture was certainly reflected in the language of his staff at the 
time : a letter from his aide-de-camp, Colin Campbell, speaks 
j (on May 30) of the depleted state of the military chest being 
j a possible curb to the campaign : 4 Lord W. cannot take 
supplies with him to enable him to do more than demon- 
i strate towards Valladolid, when so good an opportunity 
, offers, and an inconsiderable addition would suffice. The 
harvest is ripening, the country round Salamanca is full 
i of all requisite supplies, but they are not procurable without 
cash V 

Yet it is hard to be over-censorious of the home government. 
They were in the most bitter straits for money. Gold and 
silver were simply not to be got in the quantities that 
Wellington required. The amount actually sent was very large : 
it would have been larger if economic conditions had not been 
desperate. The rupture with the United States of America 
i which took place in June (fortunately too late to serve 
Napoleon's purpose), had just added a new source of anxiety 
to the troubles of the Cabinet : both money and men were now 
wanted for Canada. There can be no doubt that when Lord 
Bathurst wrote, in the middle of the Salamanca campaign, that 
'£100,000 in cash, chiefly gold, had been sent off,' and that 

1 Wellington to Lord Liverpool, April 22. Supplementary Dispatches, vii. 
p. 318. 

2 Campbell to Shawe. Supplementary Dispatches, vii. p. 362. 


' I wish to God we could assist you more in money,' he was 
writing quite honestly, and amid most adverse financial circum- 
stances. Great Britain was at the most exhausting point of her 
long struggle with Napoleon. The Russian war had begun — 
but there was no sign as yet that it was to be the ruin of the 
Emperor : his armies seemed to be penetrating towards Moscow 
in the old triumphant style : many politicians spoke of a 
humiliating peace dictated to Czar Alexander in the autumn 
as the probable end of the campaign, and speculated on 
Napoleon's appearance at Madrid in 1813 as a possible event. 
Wheat had risen in this spring to 130s. the quarter. The out- 
break of the long-threatened but long-averted American war 
looked like the last blow that was to break down the British 
Empire. It was no wonder that the national credit was low in 
June 1812. There was nothing to revive it till Wellington's 
Salamanca triumph in July : nor did any one understand that 
Napoleon's star had passed its zenith, till the news of the 
disasters of the Moscow retreat began to drift westward in 
November and December. 

Meanwhile, if the financial outlook was gloomy, the actual 
military situation was more promising than it had ever been 
before. Well aware, from intercepted dispatches, of the 
quarrels of his adversaries, and perfectly informed as to their 
numbers and their cantonments, Wellington considered with 
justice that he had such a game in his hands as he had never 
before had set before him. On June 13th he crossed the Agueda 
with his army in three parallel columns. The left was under 
charge of Picton, and consisted of the 3rd Division, Pack's; 
and Bradford's Portuguese, and Le Marchant's brigade of' 
heavy dragoons. The centre, which Beresford conducted, was 
composed of the Light, 4th, and 5th Divisions. It was preceded 
by Alten's German hussars, and accompanied by Bock'si 
dragoons. The right column, under Graham, had the 1st, 6th,' 
and 7th Divisions, with a regiment of Anson's horse for purposes- 
of exploration. It is to be noted that both Picton and Graham 
were destined to remain only a few weeks with the army : the 
former had taken the field ere his Badajoz wound was properly 
healed : it broke open again, he fell into a high fever, and had! 
to be sent to the rear. Wellington's brother-in-law, Pakenham,» 








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took over charge of the 3rd Division on June 28th. Graham 
had been suffering for some months from an affection of the eyes, 
which the physicians told him might at any time grow worse 
and threaten his sight. He persisted on staying with the army 
till the last possible moment, but became more blind each day, 
and was compelled to throw up his command on July 6th and 
to return to England for skilled medical advice. Thus, during 
the greater part of the Salamanca campaign, Wellington was 
working without his best-trusted lieutenants — Craufurd was 
dead, both Picton and Graham invalided. In consequence of 
Graham's departure a very difficult point was raised. If some 
illness or wound should disable the Commander-in-Chief, to 
whom would the charge of operations fall * ? Wellington con- 
sidered that Beresford was entitled to expect the succession, 
and deprecated the sending out of some senior officer from 
England with a commission to act as second in command. He 
observed that no one coming fresh from home would have a real 
i grasp of the conditions of the war : that he would probably 
start with a priori views, and have to unlearn them in a time 
of imminent danger. Moreover, a second-in-command was, 
when his superior was in good health, either an unnecessary 
person or else a tiresome one, if he presumed on his position 
to offer advice or remonstrances. Fortunately the question 
remained a wholly academic one, since Wellington's iron 
physique, and unbroken luck when bullets were flying, never 
failed him. An understudy turned out to be superfluous. 

The three columns of the allied army advanced on a very 

narrow front of not more than ten miles, though the cavalry 

! spread out considerably to the flanks. On the 13th the columns 

i bivouacked on the Guadapero river, in front of Ciudad Rodrigo, 

, between Santi Espiritus and Tenebron. On the 14th they 

advanced four leagues to the Huebra, and camped on each side 

of San Mufioz, with head- quarters at Cabrillas. On the 15th a 

rather longer march took them to Matilla and Cayos. Nothing 

had yet been seen of any enemy. It was only on the 16th, in 

the morning, that the advanced cavalry of the centre column, 

after crossing the Valmusa river, came into contact with two 

squadrons of French chasseurs, not more than two leagues 

1 Wellington to Bathurst. Dispatches, ix. p. 277. 

OMAN, v A a 


outside of Salamanca. These outposts gave way when pushed, 
and retired across the Tormes. The British army bivouacked 
in sight of Salamanca that night, and received the information 
that Marmont had already evacuated the city, save for a garrison 
left in its three new forts \ 

The Army of Portugal had been caught, just as Wellington. 1 
had hoped, in a condition of wide dispersion. It was not that 
Marmont did not expect the attack, but that, till the day, 
when it should be actually delivered, he dared not concentrate,, 
because of his want of magazines and the paucity of transport, 
He had resolved that he must be content to abandon all the 
land west of Salamanca, in order that his point of concentration, 
should be out of reach of his enemy's first stroke. It was fixed, 
at Bleines and Fuente Sauco, twenty miles north of Salamanca 
on the road to Toro. On the morning of the 14th, when th( 
news that Wellington was over the Agueda first reached him 
the Marshal issued orders to all his divisions to march on thi 
point, not even excepting that of Bonnet in the Asturias. For 
despite of the Emperor's wish to keep a hold upon that province 
Marmont held, and rightly, that it was more important to plaaj 
in front of the Anglo-Portuguese every possible bayonet, am 
he could not spare a solid division of 6,500 men. Unfortunate! 
for him, however, it was clear that Bonnet could not arrive fo 
fifteen or twenty days. The other seven divisions were concen 
trated by the fifth night from the giving of the alarm 2 . The; 
formed a mass of 36,000 infantry, with 80 guns, but only 2,80 
horse. This total does not include either Bonnet, nor thre 
battalions of Thomieres's division left to hold Astorga, no 
small garrisons placed in Toro, Zamora, the Salamanca fortsj 

1 The itinerary of this march in detail may be found in the excellen 
Diary of Tomkinson of the 16th Light Dragoons. 

2 Foy, who had been drawn away from the Tagus after the affair i 
Almaraz, had to march from Avila, Clausel from Pefiaranda, Ferey froi 
Valladolid, Sarrut from Toro, Maucune and Brennier had been at Sal* 
manca, Thomieres came from Zamora. Boyer's dragoons were at Toro anj 
Benavente, Curto's light cavalry division had been with Maucune anj 
Brennier at Salamanca. Valladolid, Avila, and Benavente were the nw 
distant points : but the troops from them were all up by the 19th. Nt, 
was it possible for Wellington to interfere with the concentration, thourj 
possibly he might have forced Foy from Avila to make a detour, if he ha 
followed Marmont very close. 


and certain other posts farther east *. Nor does it take account 
of a depot of 3,000 men, including many dismounted dragoons, 
at Valladolid. The total of the field army, including artillery, 
sappers, &c, was about 40,000 of all arms. 

This force was distinctly inferior in number to that of the 
Anglo-Portuguese, who, without counting three infantry 
battalions on their way to the front from Lisbon, or D'Urban's 
Portuguese horse on the side of Zamora, had some 40,000 
infantry in line, and 3,500 excellent cavalry, in which arm 
Wellington, for the first time in his life, had a slight advantage 
over the enemy. Carlos de Espafia was also approaching, with 
the 3,000 Spanish infantry that were available after the garrison 
of Ciudad Rodrigo had been completed, and in all the allied 
army must have had 48,000 men at the front 2 . The balance 
of numbers, of which each general was pretty well informed, 
was such as to make both sides careful — Marmont was 8,000 
men short of his adversary's power, and was particularly 
depressed by the knowledge of his inferiority in cavalry, an 
arm on which the French had hitherto relied with confidence. 
But the horse of the Army of Portugal had never recovered 
from the consequences of Massena's retreat in the last spring, 
and all the regiments were very weak : while Wellington was 
at last profiting from the liberal way in which the home govern- 
ment had reinforced his mounted arm during the autumn of 
1811. He had ten British regiments with him, whereas at 
Fuentes de Onoro he had owned but four. 

On the other hand Wellington, among his 48,000 men, had 
only 28,000 British ; there were 17,000 Portuguese and 3,000 
Spaniards with him, and excellent though the conduct of the 
former had been during the late campaign, it would be hypocrisy 
to pretend that their commander could rely upon them under 
all circumstances, as he would have done upon a corresponding 
number of British infantry. He was ready to give battle, but 
it must be a battle under favourable conditions. Marmont 
felt much the same : it was necessary to beat Wellington if the 
French domination in Spain was to be preserved. But it would 

1 Nor do we reckon the regiment of Sarrut's division (130th) permanently 
detached at Santander. 

See tables of the armies of both sides in the Appendix no. IX. 

A a 2 


be rash to attack him in one of his favourite defensive positions : 
there must be no more Bussacos. And every available man 
must be gathered in, before a general action was risked. The 
only justification for instant battle would be the unlikely chance 
of catching the Anglo-Portuguese army in a state of dispersion 
or some other unlucky posture — and Wellington's known 
caution did not make such a chance very probable. 

Marmont's main purpose, indeed, was to hold Wellington 
' contained ' till he should have succeeded in bringing up! 
Bonnet, and also reinforcements from the Armies of the North ! 
and Centre — if not even from some distant forces. On Bonnet'sl 
eventual arrival he could rely — but not on any fixed date for) 
his appearance, for it was difficult to get orders promptly to 
the Asturias, and there might be many unforeseen delays in 
their execution. But Marmont was also counting on aid from 
Caffarelli, which would presumably reach him even before 
Bonnet appeared. In expectation of Wellington's advance, he 
had written to the Commander of the Army of the North on 
May 24th and 30th, and again on June 5th, asking for assurances 
of help, and reminding his colleague of the Emperor's directions. 
The answers received were, on the whole, satisfactory : the las! 
of them, dated at Vittoria on June 14th, said that the disposable 
field-force was 8,000 men, including a brigade of light cavalrj 
and 22 guns. They should march from Vittoria as soon as some 
troops of Abbe's division arrived from Pampeluna to replace 
them, and they should be echeloned along the high-road frorr 
Burgos to Valladolid ready to move up when called upon 1 . I 
must be remembered that on this date Caffarelli was answerin/ 
a hypothetical inquiry as to his exact power to help, no 
a definite demand for men, since Wellington had only crosse< 
the Agueda on the previous day, and nothing was known a 
Vittoria of his actual start. But the dispatch was encouraging 
as it seemed to show a good spirit, and named the exact fore 
available, and the route that it would take. Marmont receive 
it upon the 19th, just as he had completed his own concentration 
at Fuente Sauco. It seemed to justify him in believing thaj 
before July 1 he would have 8,000 men from Caffarelli 

1 Sec Caffarelli to Marmont of June 10 and June 14th in Marmonl 
Memoires, iv. pp. 408-10. 


his disposition, including, what was specially valuable, 1,000 

The dispatches from King Joseph and Jourdan were less 
satisfactory. At this moment they were in a state of hesitation 
caused by contradictory intelligence. ' Your letter of June 6th,' 
wrote Jourdan to Marmont, ' says that Wellington will soon fall 
upon you. But we have similar letters from Soult, declaring 
that the blow is to be delivered against him : he encloses two 
notes of June 2nd and 5th from General Daricau in Estrema- 
dura, declaring that 60,000 of the allies are just about to begin 
an invasion of Andalusia. We are too far off from the scene of 
operations to determine whether it is you or the Duke of 
Dalmatia who is deceived. We can only tell you, meanwhile, 
not to be misled by demonstrations, and to be ready to start off 
three divisions to Soult's help without a moment's delay, if 
Lord Wellington's real objective is Andalusia. Similarly we 
have sent Soult express orders that he shall move Drouet to 
the north bank of the Tagus, if Wellington has called up Hill 
to join him, and is making the true attack on you. Caffarelli has 
stringent orders to support you with what troops he can collect, 
when you are able to tell him definitely that you are the person 
threatened, not Soult 1 .' 

It is clear that the hallucinations of the Duke of Dalmatia 
were most valuable to Wellington, who had foreseen them 
long ago by a study of intercepted dispatches. Whatever 
happened, Soult could not refrain from believing that he had 
the great role to play, and that his Andalusian viceroyalty was 
the centre of all things. At this moment his picture of Welling- 
ton about to move on Cordova with 60,000 men seems to have 
been a belated conception caused by Graham's march to 
Elvas on May 20. He had not yet realized that ten days 
later Graham's corps had gone northward again, and had 
joined Wellington on the Agueda about the time that he was 
writing his alarmist letters. There was nothing in front of 
him save Hill's 18,000 men : but he refused to see the facts, and 
deceived Joseph and Jourdan for some days by the definite and 
authoritative restatement of absolutely erroneous intelligence. 
Hence it was not till Marmont was able to say, without any 
1 Jourdan to Marmont, June 14th, in Memoires, iv. pp. 411-12. 


possible chance of error, that Wellington was across the Agueda, 
and had advanced to Salamanca at the head of at least 40,000 
men, that the King and his Chief-of-the-Staff at last recognized 
the true seat of danger. Long after they had detected it, they ; 
continued (as we shall see) to receive preposterous dispatches 
from Soult, still maintaining that they were mistaken, and still 
discovering excuses for not obeying the peremptory orders that j 
they sent him. 


JUNE 20th-30th, 1812 

Wellington's conduct on reaching Salamanca was not that 
which might have been expected. When a general has, by 
a careful and well-arranged concentration, collected all his own 
troops into one solid mass, and then by a rapid advance has 
thrown himself into the midst of the scattered cantonments 
of an enemy who has no superiority to him in numbers, it is 
natural for him to press his pursuit vigorously. Far the most 
effective way of opening the campaign would have been to cut 
up the two divisions which Marmont had just led out of Sala- 
manca, or at least to follow them so closely that they could 
be brought to action before all the outlying divisions had come 
in. This would certainly have been Napoleon's method. 

Wellington, however, wanted to fight a battle in one of his 
favourite defensive positions, and he thought that he had 
a means of compelling Marmont to attack him, by laying siege 
1 to the Salamanca forts. After Ciudad Rodrigo and Badajoz, 
| no French marshal would like to see a third important post 
captured ' under his nose.' The British general judged that 
Marmont would fight him, in order to save his prestige and 
his garrison. And since he believed that Bonnet would not 
evacuate the Asturias, and that Caffarelli would send help late, 
if at all, he thought that he could count upon a superiority of 
numbers which rendered victory certain. 

This seems to be the only rational way of explaining Welling- 
ton's conduct on June 17th. On arriving in front of Salamanca 
his army made a majestic encircling movement, Picton's 
column crossing the Tormes by the fords of El Canto below the 
city, Beresford's and Graham's by those of Santa Marta above 
it. The use of the unbroken town-bridge was made impossible 
by Marmont's forts. The heads of the two columns met on the 


north side, and they then moved three miles on, and took upi 
a long position below the heights of San Cristobal, which liei 
outside Salamanca on its northern and eastern front. These i 
formed the chosen defensive fighting-ground which Wellington; 
had already in his mind. 

Only the 14th Light Dragoons and Clinton's infantry of the! 
6th Division turned into Salamanca by the Toro gate, andj 
acted as Wellington's escort, while he was received by the! 
municipality and made his arrangements for the attack on thei 
forts, which, though they commanded the bridge, had nol 
outlook on the spacious arcaded Plaza Mayor, where the| 
reception took place. It was a lively scene. ' We were received 
with shouts and vivas,' writes an eye-witness. ' The inhabitants 
were out of their senses at having got rid of the French, and 
nearly pulled Lord Wellington off his horse. The ladies were 
the most violent, many coming up to him and embracing him. 
He kept writing orders upon his sabretash, and was interrupted 
three or four times by them. What with the joy of the people, 
and the feeling accompanying troops about to attack a fortress, 
it was a half -hour of suspense and anxiety, and a scene of such 
interest as I never before witnessed V 

Head -quarters were established that night in the city, and 
Clinton's division invested the forts, which looked formidable 
enough to require close study before they were attacked. The 
rest of the army took up its bivouacs, with the cavalry out 
in front, and remained practically without movement on the 
ground now selected, for the next two days, till Marmont 
came to pay his expected visit. 

The three Salamanca forts were built on high ground in the 
south-west corner of the city, which overlooks the long Roman 
bridge. To make them Marmont had destroyed a great part oil 
the old University quarter of the place, levelling the majority 
of the colleges — for Salamanca, till 1808, had been a university 
of the English rather than the usual continental type, and ha< 
owned a score of such institutions. Nearly all the buildings or 
the slopes had been pulled down, leaving a wide open glaci 
round three massive convents, which had been transformed inte 
places of strength. San Vincente occupied the crest of the knol 
1 Tomkinson's Diary, p. 1G2. 


overlooking the river, and lay in the extreme angle of the old 
city wall, which enclosed it on two sides. The smaller strong- 
holds, San Cayetano and La Merced, were separated from San 
Vincente by a narrow but steep ravine, and lay close together 
on another rising-ground of about the same height. The three 
formed a triangle with crossing fires, each to a large extent 
commanding the ground over which the others would have to 
be approached. The south and west sides of San Vincente and 
La Merced overhung precipitous slopes above the river, and 
were almost inaccessible. The north sides of San Cayetano and 
San Vincente were the only fronts that looked promising for 
attack, and in each elaborate preparations had been made in 
view of that fact. Marmont had originally intended to enclose 
all three forts and many buildings more — such as the Town 
Hospital, the convent of San Francisco, and the colleges of 
Ireland and Cuenca, in an outer enceinte, to serve as a large 
citadel which would contain several thousand men and all his 
magazines. But money and time had failed, and on the slopes 
below the forts, several convents and colleges, half pulled to 
pieces, were still standing, and offered cover for besiegers at 
a distance of some 250 yards from the works. The garrison 
consisted of six flank-companies from the 15th, 65th, 82nd, and 
86th of the line and the 17th Leger, and of a company of 
artillery, under the chefde bataillon Duchemin of the 65th. They 
made up a total of 800 men, and had thirty-six guns in position, 
of which, however, the greater part were only light field-pieces : 
two guns (commanding the bridge) were in La Merced, four in 
San Cayetano, the remaining thirty in San Vincente, the most 
formidable of the three. 

Wellington had come prepared to besiege 4 three fortified 
convents,' and had been sent a confused sketch of them drawn 
by an amateur's hand *. They turned out much stronger than 
he had been led to expect, owing to the immense amount of 
hewn stone from the demolished colleges and other buildings 
that was available to build them up. The walls had been 
doubled in thickness, the windows stopped, and scarps and 
counterscarps with solid masonry had been thrown around them. 
The roofs of the two minor forts had been taken off, and the 
1 Jones, Sieges, i. p. 269. 


upper stories casemated, by massive oak beams with a thick 
coating of earth laid upon them. This surface was so strong 
that guns, protected by sandbag embrasures, had been mounted 
on it at some points. There was also an ample provision of 
palisades, made from strong oak and chestnut beams. Alto- 
gether it was clear that the works would require a systematic 
battering, and were not mere patched-up mediaeval monasteries, 
as had been expected. 

It was, therefore, most vexatious to find that the very small 
battering-train which Wellington had brought with him from 
Ciudad Rodrigo was obviously insufficient for the task before 
it ; there were no more than four iron 18-pounder guns, with 
only 100 rounds of shot each, at the front ; though six 24-pound 
howitzers, from the train that had taken Badajoz, were on their 
way from Elvas to join, and were due on the 20th. It was not, 
however, howitzers so much as more heavy 18- or 24-pounders 
that were required for battering, and the lack of them at the 
moment was made all the more irksome by the known fact 
that there were plenty of both sorts at Rodrigo and Almeida, 
five or six marches away. The mistake was precisely the same 
that was to be made again at Burgos in the autumn — under- 
valuation of the means required to deal with works of third- 
class importance. Whether Wellington himself or his artillery! 
and engineer advisers were primarily responsible is not clear 1 

The responsibility for the working out of the little siege with 
inadequate means fell on Lieut. -Colonel Burgoyne, as senior 
engineer (he had with him only two other officers of that corps 
and nine military artificers !), and Lieut. -Colonel May, R.A., who 
was in charge of the four 18-pounders. The latter borrowed 
three howitzers from field-batteries to supplement his miser-J 
able means, and afterwards two 6-pounder field-guns, which, oi 
course, were only for annoying the garrison, not for battering. 

It looked at first as if the only practicable scheme was tci 
build a battery for the 18-pounders on the nearest available' 
ground, 250 yards from San Vincente to the north, and lower 
down the knoll on which that fort stood. There was good covei 
from ruined buildings up to this distance from the Frenclj 

1 At any rate Dickson was not, as he was with the howitzers that wer« 
coming up from Elvas, and had not started from Rodrigo with the army. 


works. On the night of the occupation of Salamanca 400 work- 
men of the 6th Division commenced a battery on the selected 
spot and approaches leading to it from the cover in the ruins. 
The work done was not satisfactory : it was nearly full moon, 
the night was short, and the enemy (who knew well enough 
where the attack must begin), kept up a lively fire of artillery 
and musketry all night. Unfortunately the 6th Division 
workmen had no experience of sieges — they had never used 
pick or shovel before, and there were only two engineer officers 
and nine artificers to instruct them. ' Great difficulty was 
i found in keeping the men to work under the fire : the Portuguese 
in particular absolutely went on hands and knees, dragging 
their baskets along the ground V By daylight the projected 
line of the battery was only knee-high, and gave no cover, so 
that the men had to be withdrawn till dusk. An attempt had 
been made during the night to ascertain whether it were 
possible to creep forward to the ditch, and lay mines there, to 
blow in the counterscarp. But the party who tried to reach 
the ditch were detected by the barking of a dog, who alarmed 
the French out-picket, and the explorers had to retire with 
several men wounded. 

Seeing that the fire of the garrison was so effective, the 
officers in charge of the siege asked for, and obtained from 
Wellington, three hundred marksmen to keep down the tiraillade. 
They were taken from the Light Brigade of the King's German 
Legion, and spread among the ruins to fire at the embrasures 
and loopholes of the French. They also hoisted, with some 
difficulty, two field-guns on to the first floor of the convent of 
San Bernardo, which lies north-west of San Vincente, and kept 
up a lively discharge ' out of the drawing-room window, so to 
speak. We fired for some hours at each other, during which 
time an unlucky shot went as completely through my captain's 
(Elige's) heart as possible. But considering how near we were, 
I am much surprised that our loss was so slight — one killed and 
one wounded at my own gun V But the fire of the San Vincente 
artillery was by no means silenced. 

1 Burgoyne's diary in his Life, i. p. 192. 

* Letter of F. Monro, R.A., lent me by his representative. See Fortnightly 
\Review for July 1912. 


On the night of June 18th-19th the working party of the 
6th Division succeeded in finishing the battery which was to 
breach the main fort, and also commenced two smaller batteries, 
to right and left, in places among the ruins, one by the College 
of Cuenca, the other below San Bernardo *. On the morning of 
the 19th the four 18-pounders and three howitzers opened, 
and brought down the upper courses of the masonry of that 
part of San Vincente on which they were trained. But they 
could not move its lower part, or reach the counterscarp. 
Wherefore two howitzers were put into the second battery, 
near the College of Cuenca, which could command the counter- 
scarp. The play of these guns proved insufficient, however, to 
shake it, and the garrison concentrated such a fire upon them,i 
mainly from musketry at loopholes, that twenty gunners were, 
killed or hurt while working the two howitzers. 

Next morning Dickson's six howitzers from Elvas came up, 
and served to replace those borrowed from the field companies, 
wherefore there was only an addition of three pieces net to the 
battering-train. Two of the 18-pounders were moved round 
to the battery (No. 2) which had been so hard hit on the pre- 
ceding day : their fire proved much more effective than that oJ 
the howitzers, and brought down an angle of the upper wal 
of San Vincente and part of its roof, which fell on and crushed 
many of the French. 

But on the 21st it was impossible to continue the battering 
for the ignominious reason that there were hardly any mon 
shot left to fire. Only sixty balls remained in store for th( 
18-pounders, and a little over one hundred for the howitzers 
The calculations of the besiegers had been so erroneous that the} 
had used up their stock just as the critical moment had arrived 
On the previous day Wellington, seeing what was coming, hac 
sent a hurried message to Almeida for more shot and powder- 
but the convoy, though urged on with all possible speed, die 
not arrive at Salamanca till the 26th. 

Meanwhile the general engagement for which Wellingtoi 

1 Nos. 2 and 3 in the map respectively. 

2 Of course a few rounds more for the howitzers could have been bor 
rowed from the field-batteries with the divisions. For the 18-pounders, th 
really important guns, there was no such resource for borrowing. 


had prepared himself seemed likely to come off. Marmont 
had all his army, save Bonnet alone, collected by the 19th, at 
Fuente Sauco. On the following day he came boldly forward 
and drove in the British cavalry vedettes. He showed three 
columns moving on a parallel front, which observers estimated 
at 18,000 foot and 2,000 horse — but there were more behind, 
still invisible. At four in the afternoon he was drawing so close 
that Wellington assumed his battle position. Five divisions 
and the two independent Portuguese brigades formed the 
fighting-line, from San Cristobal southward to Cabrerizos on the 
bank of the Tormes : the order was (from right to left) lst-7th- 
4th-Light-3rd-Pack and Bradford. The reserve was com- 
posed of the 5th Division, of Hulse's brigade of the 6th (of which 
the remainder was left to blockade the Salamanca forts), and 
of Carlos de Espafia's 3,000 Spaniards. Alten's cavalry covered 
the British right, Ponsonby's 1 the left, Bock's and Le Marchant's 
heavy squadrons were in reserve. 

It looked at first as though Marmont intended to force on 
the battle that Wellington desired. Moving with great order 
and decision, his three columns deployed opposite the heights, 
and advanced to within a very moderate distance of them — 
not more than 800 yards at one point. They were extremely 
visible, as the whole country-side below the British position 
was a fine plain covered with ripening wheat. The only breaks 
in the surface were the infrequent villages — in this part of 
Spain they are all large and far apart — and a few dry water- 
courses, whose line could be detected winding amid the inter- 
minable cornfields. Warning to keep off the position was given 
to the French by long-range fire from several of the British 
batteries on salient points of the line. The enemy replied 
noisily and with many guns : Wellington's officers judged 
that he was doing his best to make his approach audible to the 
garrison of the besieged forts. 

At dusk the French occupied the village of Castellanos de 

Morisco, in front of the right centre of the heights, and then 

advanced a regiment to attack Morisco, which was absolutely 

j at the foot of them, and had been occupied by Wellington as an 

i advanced post. It was held by the 68th regiment from the 

1 Acting vice G. Anson, absent. 


7th Division, a battalion which had come out from England 
in the preceding autumn, but had, by chance, never been 
engaged before. It made a fine defence, and beat off three 
attacks upon the village : but after dark Wellington called it 
back uphill to the line of the position, abandoning Morisco \ 
Apparently he was glad to see the French pressing in close, 
and looked for an attack upon his position next morning. 
Standing on the sky-line above Castellanos at dusk, with 
a map in his hand, he demonstrated to all the assembled 
generals commanding divisions the exact part which they were 
to play, till several French round-shot compelled him to shift 
his position a little farther back 2 . The whole army slept that 
night in order of battle, with strong pickets pushed down to 
the foot of the slopes. 

There was, however, no attack at dawn. Marmont's two | 
rear divisions (those of Foy and Thomieres) and a brigade of 
dragoons were not yet on the ground, and only got up in the 
course of the afternoon : hence he was naturally unwilling to 
move, as he had a certain knowledge that he was outnumbered. 
It would seem that Wellington had, that morning, an oppor- 
tunity of crushing his enemy, which he must have regretted to 
have lost on many subsequent days of the campaign. Marmont's 
position was one of very great risk : he had pushed in so close 
to the British heights, that he might have been attacked and 
brought to action in half an hour, and could not have got away 
without fighting. His position was visible from end to end — 
it had no flank protection, and its only strong points were the 
two villages of Morisco and Castellanos de Morisco on its left 
centre. Behind was an undulating sea of cornfields extending 
to the horizon. Wellington (after deducting the two missing 
brigades of the 6th Division) could have come down in a general 
charge from his heights, with 37,000 Anglo-Portuguese infantry, 
and 3,500 horse — not to speak of Carlos de Espana's 3,000 
Spaniards. Marmont had only five divisions of infantry (about 
28,000 bayonets) on the ground at daybreak, and less than 2,000 

1 The 68th lost four officers and 46 men killed and wounded, and one 
officer taken prisoner. For a good account of the fight sec the Memoirs 
of Green of the 68th, pp. 89-90. 

2 See Tomkinson's Diary, p. 165. 


horse. He was in a thoroughly dominated position, and it is 
hard to see what he could have done, had Wellington strength- 
ened his left wing with all his cavalry and delivered a vigorous 
downhill assault on the unprotected French right. The 
opportunity for an attack was so favourable that Wellington's 
staff discussed with curiosity the reasons that might be pre- 
venting it, and formed varying hypotheses to account for his 
holding back 1 . As a matter of fact, as his dispatch to Lord 
Liverpool explains 2 , the British Commander-in-Chief was still 
hoping for a second Bussaco. He saw that Marmont was not 
going to attack till his rear had come up, but hoped that he 
might do so that afternoon or next morning, when he had all 
his men in hand. The daring way in which the Marshal con- 
tinued to hold on to an untenable position, within cannon 
shot of his enemy's line, seemed to argue an ultimate intention 
to bring on an action. 

Nor was Wellington very far out in his ideas : Marmont was 
in a state of indecision. When the missing 10,000 men came 
up he called a council of war — the regular resort of generals in 
a difficulty. We have concerning it only the evidence of Foy, 
who wrote as follows in his diary. 

'At dusk on the 21st there was a grand discussion, on the 
problem as to whether we should or should not give battle to 
the English. The Marshal seemed to have a desire to do so, 
but a feeble and hesitating desire. Remembering Vimeiro, 
Corunna, and Bussaco, I thought that it would be difficult to 
beat the English, our superiors in number, on such a compact 
position as that which they were occupying. I had not the first 
word : I allowed Maucune, Ferey 3 , and La Martiniere to 
express their views, before I let them see what I thought. Then 
Clausel having protested strongly against fighting, I supported 
his opinion. Because we had left a small garrison in the 
Salamanca forts, we were not bound to lose 6,000 killed and 
wounded, and risk the honour of the army, in order to deliver 
them. The troops were in good spirits, and that is excellent for 
the first assault : but here we should have a long tough struggle : 

1 Tomkinson's Diary, p. 166. 

2 Wellington to Liverpool, Salamanca, June 25, in Dispatches, ix. p. 252. 
The first two were great fire-eaters, and always urged action. 


I doubted whether we had breath enough to keep it up to the 
end. In short, I saw more chances of defeat than victory. 
I urged that we ought to keep close to the English, " contain " 
them, and wait for our reinforcements ; this could be done by 
manoeuvring along the left bank of the Tormes above and 
below Salamanca. Clausel and I set forth this policy from 
every aspect. The Marshal was displeased : he fancied that 
his generals were plotting to wreck his plan : he wanted to 
redeem the blunder which he saw that he had made in leaving 
a garrison in Salamanca : he dreads the Emperor and the public 
opinion of the army. He would have liked a battle, but he 
had not determination enough to persist in forcing it on 1 .' 

It seems, therefore, certain that Wellington nearly obtained 
the defensive general action that he had desired and expected, 
and was only disappointed because Marmont was talked down 
by his two best divisional generals. If the Marshal had made 
his attack, it is clear that his disaster would have been on a far 
more complete and awful scale than the defeat which he was 
actually to endure on July 22. For he would have had behind 
him when repulsed (as he must have been) no friendly shelter 
of woods and hills, such as then saved the wrecks of his army, 
but a boundless rolling plain, in which routed troops would 
have been at the mercy of a cavalry which exceeded their own 
in the proportion of seven to five (or slightly more). 

On the morning of the 22nd, the British general, who had now 
kept his army in position for thirty-six hours on end, began to 
guess that he was not to be attacked. Was it worth while to 
advance, since the enemy refused to do so ? The conditions were 
by no means so favourable as at the dawn of the 21st, when 
Marmont had been short of 10,000 men. But the allied army 
still possessed a perceptible superiority in numbers, a stronger 
cavalry, and a dominating position, from which it would be 
easy to deliver a downhill attack under cover of their 

Wellington, however, made no decisive movement : he threw 

up some fleches to cover the batteries in front of the 1st and 

7th Divisions, of which the latter was pushed a little nearer 

to the Tormes. He brought up the six heavy howitzers whic 

1 Foy's Vie mililaire, ed. Girod de l'Ain, pp. 1C5-G. 



had been used against the forts, and placed them on this 
same right wing of his position. Then he commenced a partial 
offensive movement, which was apparently designed to draw 
Marmont into a serious bickering, if he were ready to stand. 
The 7th Division began to make an advance towards Morisco : 
the skirmishers of the Light Brigade of the King's German 
Legion moved down, and began to press in the pickets opposite 
them, their battalions supporting. Soon after the 51st and 68th, 
from the other brigade of the division, that of De Bernewitz, 
were ordered to storm a knoll immediately above Morisco, 
which formed the most advanced point of the enemy's line. 
Wellington directed Graham to support them with the whole 
1st and Light Divisions, if the enemy should bring up reinforce- 
ments and show fight. But nothing of the kind happened : 
the two battalions carried the knoll with a single vigorous rush, 
losing some 30 killed and wounded 1 . But the French made 
I no attempt to recapture it, drew back their skirmishing line, 
I and retired to the village, only 200 yards behind, where they 
stood firm, evidently expecting a general attack. It was not 
delivered : Wellington had been willing to draw Marmont into 
| a fight, but was not intending to order an advance of the whole 
i line, and to precipitate a general offensive battle. 

There was no more fighting that day, and next morning the 
whole French army had disappeared save some cavalry vedettes, 
i These being pressed in by Alten's hussars, it was discovered 
that Marmont had gone back six miles, to a line of heights 
| behind the village of Aldea Rubia, and was there in a defensive 
| position, with his left wing nearly touching the Tormes near 
the fords of Huerta. Wellington made no pursuit : only his 
cavalry reconnoitred the new French position. He kept his 
army on the San Cristobal heights, only moving down Anson's 
| brigade of the 4th Division to hold Castellanos, and Halkett's 
| of the 7th Division to hold Morisco. Hulse's brigade of the 
6th Division was sent back to Salamanca, as were also Dickson's 
six howitzers, and Clinton was directed to press the siege of 

1 The 51st lost 3 killed and an officer and 20 men wounded : the 68th 
2 killed and 6 wounded, the K.G.L. Light Battalions 3 killed and 3 officers 
and 17 men wounded. There are narratives of the combat in the Memoirs 
'of Green of the 68th, and Major Rice and Private Wheeler of the 51st. 

OMAN. V g J) 


the forts — notwithstanding the unhappy fact that there was 
scarcely any ammunition left in the batteries. 

Marmont had undoubtedly been let off easily by Wellington : 
yet he hardly realized it, so filled was his mind with the idea 
that his adversary would never take the offensive. His report 
to King Joseph shows a sublime ignorance of his late danger. 
As the document has never been published and is very short,! 
it may be worth quoting. 

' Having concentrated the greater part of this army on the 1 
evening of the 19th, I marched on Salamanca the same day.i 
I seized some outlying posts of the enemy, and my army! 
bivouacked within half cannon-shot of the English. Their army 
was very well posted, and I did not think it right to attack 
yesterday (June 21) without making a reconnaissance of it.l 
The result of my observations has convinced me that as long 
as my own numbers are not at least equal to theirs, I must 
temporize, and gain time for the arrival of the troops from the 
Army of the North, which General Caffarelli has promised me 
If they arrive I shall be strong enough to take an enterprising 
course. Till then I shall manoeuvre round Salamanca, so a> 
to try to get the enemy to divide his army, or to move it out 
its position, which will be to my advantage. The Salamanc; 
forts are making an honourable defence. Since we came ujj 
the enemy has ceased to attack them, so that I have gaine( 
time, and can put off a general action for some days if I thinlj 
proper 1 .' 

Marmont's plan for ' manoeuvring around Salamanca i 
proved (as we shall see) quite ineffective, and ended withii 
a few days in a definite retreat, when he found that the succour 
promised by Caffarelli were not about to appear. 

Meanwhile the siege of the Salamanca forts had recommenced 
on the 23rd, under the depressing conditions that the artiller 
had only 60 rounds (15 apiece !) for the four heavy 18 -pounded 
which were their effective weapons, and 160 for the six howitzer? 
which had hitherto proved almost useless. The two light fielc^ 
guns (6-pounders) were also replaced on the first floor of Sa 
Bernardo to shell the enemy's loopholes — they were no good at aj 

1 Marmont to Joseph, night of the 22nd June, from bivouac befo| 
San Cristobal. Intercepted dispatch in the Scovell Papers. 


for battering. This time the besiegers placed one of their heavy 

guns in the right flanking battery near San Bernardo, to get an 

oblique enfilading fire against the gorge of the San Cayetano fort. 

The new idea was to leave San Vincente alone, as too hard 

j a nut to crack with the small supply of shot available, and to 

batter the lesser fort from flank and rear with the few rounds 

remaining. The entire stock, together with a hundred rounds 

; of shell, was used up by the afternoon, when no practicable 

breach had been made, though the palisades of San Cayetano 

had been battered down, and its parapet much injured. Never- 

i theless Wellington ordered an attempt to storm (or rather to 

j escalade) the minor fort at 10 p.m. on the same evening. It was 

to be carried out by the six light companies of Bowes's and 

Hulse's brigades of the 6th Division, a force of between 300 and 

400 men. ' The undertaking was difficult, and the men seemed 

to feel it,' observes the official historian of the Peninsular 

! sieges 1 . The major of one of the regiments engaged remarks, 

| ' the result was precisely such as most of the officers anticipated 

i — a failure attended with severe loss of life.' The storming- 

column, starting from the ruins near the left flanking battery, 

had to charge for the gorge of San Cayetano, not only under the 

fire of that work, but with musketry and artillery from San 

Vincente taking them in the rear. The casualties from the first 

moment were very heavy — many men never got near the 

objective, and only two ladders out of twenty were planted 

against the fort 2 . No one tried to ascend them — the project 

being obviously useless, and the stormers ran back under cover 

after having lost six officers and 120 men, just a third of their 

numbers 3 . Among the killed was General Bowes, commanding 

the second brigade of the division, who had insisted on going 

forward with his light companies — though this was evidently 

not brigadier's work. Apparently he thought that his personal 

influence might enable his men to accomplish the impossible. 

He was hit slightly as the column started, but bound up his 

1 Jones, i. p. 281. 
The regimental history of the 53rd says that the ladders were so badly 
made, of green wood, that many of them came to pieces in the hands of 
their carriers long before they got near the fort. 

8 The loss has got exaggerated in many reports, because the casualties 
I in the 7th Division at Morisco on the preceding day are added to the total. 

B b2 


wound, and went forward a second time, only to be killed at 
the very foot of the ladders, just as his men broke and retired, j 

This, as all engaged in it agreed, was a very unjustifiable 1 
enterprise ; the escalade was impracticable so long as San 
Vincente was intact, and able to cover the gorge of San Cayetano ) 
with an effective fire from the rear. The siege now had a second i 
period of lethargy, all the shot having been used up. It was only 
on the morning of the 26th, three days later, that the convoy: 
from Almeida, ordered up on the 20th by Wellington, arrived j 
with 1,000 rounds carried by mules, and enabled the battering! 
to begin once more. 

Meanwhile Marmont had been making persistent but ineffec- 
tive diversions against Wellington. The advantage of the 
position to which he had withdrawn was that it commanded 
the great bend, or elbow, of the Tormes, where (at the ford of 
Huerta) that river turns its general course from northward to 
westward. Troops sent across the river here could threaten) 
Salamanca from the south, and, if in sufficient strength, might 
force Wellington to evacuate part of the San Cristobal position 
in order to provide a containing force to prevent them from 
communicating with and relieving the besieged forts. The 
Marshal's own statement of his intention x was that he hoped 
by manoeuvring, to get Wellington either to divide his army oi 
to leave his strong ground, or both. He aimed, no doubt, al 
obtaining the opportunity for a successful action with some 
isolated part of Wellington's force, but was still too mucl 
convinced of the danger of fighting a general action to be read) 
to risk much. Moreover he was expecting, from day to day 
the 8,000 men of the Army of the North whom Caffarelli hac 
promised him : and it would be reckless to give battle befon 
they arrived — if only they were really coming. 

Wellington could see, by his own eyes no less than by th< 
map, for he rode along Marmont's new front on the 23rd, tha 
the French position gave good possibilities for a passage of th< 
elbow of the Tormes at Huerta : wherefore he detached Bock 
brigade of German Dragoons to the south of the river, wit! 
orders to watch the roads debouching from the fords, and t 
act as a detaining force if any hostile cavalry crossed them. H 
1 See above, p. 370. 


i also threw forward Alten's hussars to Aldea Lengua, a village 

| and ford half-way between Cabrerizos and Aldea Rubia, with 
the object of keeping a similar close watch on any attempt of 

j Marmont's to move north of the river. One brigade of the 
Light Division came forward to support Alten — the other was 
echeloned a little back, on hills above Aldea Lengua. 

On the late evening of the 23rd Marmont sent a squadron or 
two across the Huerta fords, which turned back after running 
into Bock's vedettes. This was merely an exploring party to 
test the practicability of the passage ; but next morning, in 
a heavy fog, skirmishing fire and occasional reports of cannon 

i told Wellington that some more important detachment was 
across the Tormes, and engaged with the Germans. The 
British head-quarters staff rode to the hill above Aldea Lengua, 

! which commands a wide view over the south bank, and, when 
the morning vapours rolled up at 7 o'clock, saw Bock retiring 

! across the rolling plain in very good order, pressed by a heavy 

! force of all arms — two divisions of infantry headed by a light 
cavalry brigade with a horse artillery battery, which was doing 
some harm to the two dragoon regiments as they retired in 
alternate echelons across the slopes. 

Fortunately there was excellent defensive fighting-ground 
south of the Tormes, in prolongation of the San Cristobal 
position north of it. The ravine and brook 1 called the Ribera de 
Pelagarcia with wooded heights above them, run in front of 
Santa Marta and its ford, for some miles southward from the 
Tormes. There was a similar line of high ground facing it, with 
the villages of Pelabravo and Calvarisa de Ariba on its top, 
which the French might occupy, but on passing down from them 
they would run against a formidable position. Along these 
hills, indeed, Wellington's first line of defence was to be formed 
a month later, on the day of the battle of Salamanca. On 
seeing Bock's careful retreat in progress, the Commander-in- 
Chief ordered Graham to cross the Tormes at Santa Marta with 
the 1st and 7th Divisions, and to occupy the ground in front of 
him. This was a short move, and easily accomplished while the 
French detachment was pushing the German dragoons slowly 

1 I find the name Ribera de Pelagarcia only in the more modern 
Spanish maps : contemporary plans do not give it. 


backward. The 4th and 5th Divisions moved down to the' 
north bank of the Tormes, ready to follow if Marmont should! 
support his advanced guard, by sending more men over the! 
Huerta fords. Le Merchant's heavy brigade crossed the riven 
with a horse artillery battery, and went to reinforce Bock,' 
whom the French could now only push in by bringing forward! 
infantry. Their advance continued as far as the village of! 
Calvarisa de Abaxo, and a little beyond, where the whole 9,000: 
or 10,000 men deployed, as if intending to attack Graham.j 
But just as observers on the Aldea Lengua heights were begin-! 
ning to think that serious fighting was probable 1 , the whole! 
fell back into column of march, and, retiring to Huerta covered' 
by their chasseurs, recrossed the river. 

The state of affairs at nightfall was just what it had been 
at dawn. Graham and Le Marchant went back to their old 
ground north of the river, and south of it cavalry alone wad 
left — this time Alten's brigade, for Bock's had had a heavjl 
day, and needed rest. So ended a spectacular but almosil 
bloodless manoeuvre — the German dragoons lost three killed 
and two wounded : the French light horse probably no more. 

In a dispatch written the same night Marmont frankly own; 
that he was foiled by Wellington's counter-move. This hithert( 
unpublished document is worth quoting. It is addressed t( 
General Caffarelli, and runs as follows 2 . 4 The movemen i 
which I have made toward Salamanca has caused the enem 
to suspend his attack on the forts of that town. [An error 
as it was not the movement but the lack of ammunition whicl 
stopped the bombardment.] This consideration, and the wa; 
in which I found him posted to keep me off, and not least you 
assurance that your powerful reinforcements would reach nr 
very soon, have determined me to suspend the attack whicl 
I was about to deliver against him. I stop here with the objec 
of gaining time, and in the expectation of your arrival.' Fror 
this it is clear that if Graham had not been found so well posted 

1 Tomkinson, p. 170 : ' Just before they began to retire, I thought thy 
their advance looked serious. Our position was good, and if they ha 
fought with what had crossed, our force would have been the greater.' 

2 This is one of the many cipher dispatches in the Scovell Papers, whicj 
I have found so illuminating in a period when Marmont's writings, printe 
or in the French archives, are very few. 


in a position where he could readily be reinforced from San 
Cristobal, Marmont would have followed up his advanced 
guard with the rest of his army, and have struck at Salamanca 
from the South. But finding the ground on the left bank of 
i the river just as unfavourable to him as that on the north, he 
gave up the game and retired. He risked a serious check, for 
Wellington might have ordered Graham to follow and attack 
the retreating divisions, who would have had great difficulty 
in recrossing the Tormes without loss, if they had been pursued 
and attacked while jammed at the fords. But Wellington was 
still in his defensive mood, and took no risks, contented to 
have foiled most effectively his enemy's manoeuvre. 

On the 25th Marmont remained stationary, waiting for 

further advices from Caffarelli, which failed to come to hand. 

; Nor did Wellington make any move, save that of sending orders 

that the siege of the forts was to be pressed as early and as 

vigorously as possible. The guns were back in their batteries, 

: waiting for the ammunition which was yet to appear. All that 

could be done without shot was to push forward a trench along 

the bottom of the ravine between San Vincente and the other 

, two forts, to cut off communication between them. The French 

fired fiercely at the workers, where they could look down into 

the ravine, and killed some of them. But there was much 

| * dead ground ' which could not be reached from any point in 

; the forts, and by dawn on the 26th the trench was far advanced, 

and a picket was lodged safely in it, close under the gorge of 

San Cayetano. 

On the morning of the 26th the convoy of powder and shot 

from Almeida reached the front, and at three in the afternoon 

i the besiegers recommenced their fire. This time no guns were 

i placed in the original battery opposite the north front of San 

Vincente ; the four 18-pounders all went into the right flank 

i attack, and were concentrated on the gorge of San Cayetano. 

Four of the howitzers were placed in the left flank battery, 

near the College of Cuenca, and directed to fire red-hot shot 

into the roof and upper story of San Vincente. The field-guns 

in San Bernardo, aided by one howitzer, took up their old work 

of trying to keep down the fire of the forts. 

The battering in of the gorge of San Cayetano made consider- 


able progress, but the most effective work was that of the red- 
hot shot, which before night had set the tower of San Vincente 
and several points of its roof in flames. By heroic exertions the 
garrison succeeded in extinguishing them, but the besiegers' 
fire was kept up all night, and from time to time new conflagra- 
tions burst out. The governor afterwards informed the British 
engineers that eighteen separate outbreaks were kept down 
within the twenty-four hours before his surrender 1 . The fort 
was very inflammable, owing to the immense amount of timber 
that had been used for casemating, traverses, barricades, and 
parapets, inside its walls. Still it was holding out at day 
break, though the garrison was nearly exhausted : the governor 
signalled to Marmont that he could not resist for more than 
three days — a sad over-estimate of his power, as was to be 
shown in a few hours. As a subsidiary aid to the work of the 
guns two mines were commenced, one from the ravine, destined 
to burrow under San Cayetano, the other from the cliff by the 
river, intended to reach La Merced. But neither was fated to 
be used, other means sufficing. 

After four hours' pounding on the morning of the 27th, the 
gorge of San Cayetano had been battered into a real and very 
practicable breach, while a new fire had broken out in San 
Vincente, larger than any one which had preceded it. It 
reached the main store of gabions and planks within the 
fort, and threatened the powder magazine. The garrison were 
evidently flinching from their guns, as the counter-fire from 
the place, hitherto very lively, began to flag, and the whole 
building was wrapped in smoke. 

Thereupon Wellington ordered San Cayetano to be stormec 
for the second time. The column charged with the operation 
crept forward along the trench at the bottom of the ravine. 
fairly well covered till it had reached the spot immediately 
below the gorge of the fort. Just as the forlorn hope was 
about to start out of the trench, a white flag was shown fron 
the breach. The captain commanding in San Cayetano askec 
for two hours' truce, to enable him to communicate with hb 
chief in San Vincente, promising to surrender at the end of thai 
time. Wellington offered him five minutes to march out, if h( 
1 Jones, Sieges of the Peninsula, i. p. 285. 




Scale of Vards 

^ 100 200 .300 

B V.<t>axtaskcv-e VU^A i^ih 


wished to preserve his garrison's lives and baggage. As the 
Frenchmen continued to haggle and argue, he was told to take 
down his white flag, as the assault was about to be delivered. 
When the stormers ran in, San Cayetano made practically no 
defence, though a few shots were fired, which caused six 
casualties in the assaulting column : the greater part of the 
garrison threw down their muskets and made no resistance. 

At the same moment the white flag went up on San Vincente 
also : here the conflagration was now burning up so fiercely 
that the French had been able to spare no attention for the 
storming-party that captured San Cayetano. The governor, 
Duchemin, asked for three hours' suspension of arms, and 
made a proposal of terms of surrender. Wellington, here as at 
the smaller fort, refused to grant time, as he thought that the 
fire would be subdued and the defence prolonged, if he allowed 
hours to be wasted in negotiations. He sent in the same ulti- 
matum as at San Cayetano — five minutes for the garrison to 
march out, and they should have all the ' honours of war ' and 
their baggage intact. Duchemin, like his subordinate, returned 
a dilatory message, but while his white flag was still flying, the 
9th Cacadores pushed up out of the ravine and entered the 
battery on the east side of the work. They were not fired on, 
| no one in San Vincente being prepared to continue the defence, 
! and the French standard came down without further resistance. 
Not quite 600 un wounded men of the garrison were captured. 
They had lost just 200 during the siege, including 14 officers \ 
The casualties among the British were, as might have been 
expected, much heavier, largely owing to the unjustifiable 
assault of June 23rd. They amounted to 5 officers and 94 men 
killed, and 29 officers and 302 men wounded. A considerable 
store of clothing, much powder, and 36 guns of all sorts were 
found in the three forts. The powder was made over to Carlos 
de Espafia, one of whose officers, having moved it into the 
town on the 7th July, contrived to explode many barrels, which 

The total given by the governor to Warre of Beresford's staff (see his 

Letters, ed. Dr. Warre, p. 270) were 3 officers and 40 men killed, 11 officers 

and 140 men wounded. Martinien's lists show 12 officers hit, 5 in the 65th, 

2 each in the 15th and 17th Leger, 1 each in 86th, artillery, and engineers. 

I But these admirable lists are not quite complete. 


killed several soldiers and twenty citizens, besides wrecking some ! 
houses . The three forts were destroyed with care, when they 
had been stripped of all their contents. 

The fall of the Salamanca forts happened just in time to 
prevent Marmont from committing himself to a serious offensive ; 
operation for their succour. It will be remembered that, on ! 
June 24th, he had used the plea that Caffarelli's troops must 1 
be with him, ere many days had passed, as a justification for not 
pushing on to attack the British divisions in front of Santa i 
Marta. And this expectation was reasonable, in view of thati 
general's last dispatch from Vittoria of June 14th 2 , which; 
spoke of his appearance with 8,000 men as certain and imminent. 1 
On the 26th, however, the Marshal received another letter from ■ 
the Army of the North, couched in a very different tone, which 1 
upset all his plans. Caffarelli, writing on the 20th, reported 
the sudden arrival on the Biscay coast of Sir Home Popham's 
fleet, whose strength he much exaggerated. In co-operation 
with the English, Longa, Renovales, and Porlier had all come 
down from their mountains, and Bilbao was in danger from 
their unexpected and simultaneous appearance. It would 
probably be necessary to march to drive off the ' 7th Army ' and 
the British expedition without delay. At any rate the trans- 
ference of any infantry towards the Douro for the succour of 
the Army of Portugal had become impossible for the moment 
The brigade of light cavalry and the guns might still be sent 
but the infantry division had become indispensable elsewhere 
4 I am sorry,' ended Caffarelli, ' but I could not have foreseen 
this development, and when I spoke of marching towards you 
I was far from suspecting that it could arise.' 

This epistle changed the whole aspect of affairs : if the 
infantry division from Vittoria had been diverted into Biscaj 
for an indefinite period, and if even the cavalry and guns (ar 
insignificant force so far as numbers went, yet useful to ar 
army short of horse) had not even started on June 20th, il 
was clear that not a single man would be available from th( 
North for many days. Meanwhile the governor of the fort 

1 This is said to have been the result of the escort's smoking roum 
the store ! 

2 Printed in Marmont's Mtmoires, iv. p. 410. 

1 1812] MARMONT RETIRES 379 

signalled at dawn on the 27th that seventy-two hours was the 

I limit of his power of resistance. Thereupon Marmont came to 

| the desperate resolve to attempt the relief of San Vincente with 

i no more than his own 40,000 men. He tells us that he intended 

I to move by the south side of the Tormes, crossing not at 

: Huerta (as on the 24th) but at Alba de Tormes, seven miles 

j higher up, where he had a small garrison in the old castle, which 

protected the bridge. This move would have brought him 

i precisely on to the ground where he ultimately fought the 

disastrous battle of July 22nd. He would have met Wellington 

with 7,000 men less than he brought to the actual battle 

I that was yet to come, while the Anglo-Portuguese army was 

practically the same in July as it was in June 1 . The result 

could not have been doubtful — and Marmont knew that he was 

taking a serious risk. But he did not fathom its full danger, 

since he was filled with an unjustifiable confidence in his 

adversary's aversion to battle, and thought that he might be 

manoeuvred and bullied out of his position, by a move against 

his communications 2 . He would have found out his error in 

front of the Arapiles on June 29th if he had persevered. 

But he did not persevere : in the morning of June 27 the 

firing at Salamanca ceased, and a few hours later it was known 

i that the forts had fallen. Having now no longer any reason 

(for taking risks, the Marshal changed his whole plan, and 

1 resolved to remove himself in haste from Wellington's neigh- 

! bourhood, and to take up a defensive position till he should 

I receive reinforcements. Two courses were open to him — the 

first was to retire due eastward toward Arevalo, and put himself 

in communication, by Avila and Segovia, with the Army of the 

Centre and Madrid. The second was to retire north-eastward 

toward Valladolid, and to go behind the strong defensive line 

of the Douro. Taking this line the Marshal would sacrifice his 

touch with Madrid and the South, but would be certain of 

picking up the reinforcement under Bonnet which he was 

1 If Marmont had marched for Alba de Tormes on the 28th, as he 
intended to do, Wellington would have had the 6th Division in hand, as 
well as the rest of his troops, for a battle on the 29th : for the forts fell early 
on the 27th June. 

8 See his explanation of his intentions in Memoires, iv. pp. 219-20. 


expecting from the Asturias, and would also be able to receive 
with security whatever succour Caffarelli might send — even if 
it turned out to be no more than cavalry and guns. 

This alternative he chose, probably with wisdom, for in a 
position on the Douro he threatened Wellington's flank if he 
should advance farther eastward, and protected the central 
parts of the kingdom of Leon from being overrun by the Army 
of Galicia and Silveira's Portuguese, who would have had no 
containing force whatever in front of them if he had kept 
south of the Douro and linked himself with Madrid. His 
retreat, commenced before daybreak on the 28th, took him 
behind the Guarena river that night : on the 29th he crossed the 
Trabancos, and rested for a day after two forced marches. On 
the 30th he passed the Zapardiel, and reached Rueda, close to 
the Douro, on the following morning. From thence he wrote 
to King Joseph a dispatch which explains sufficiently well all 
his designs : it is all the more valuable because its details do 
not entirely bear out the version of his plans which he gives 
in his Memoires. 

4 The Salamanca forts,' he said, c having surrendered, there 
was no reason for lingering on the Tormes ; it was better to 
fall back on his reinforcements. If he had not done so, he would 
have been himself attacked, for Wellington was preparing to 
strike, and pursued promptly. He had detached one division 
[Foy] towards Toro and the Lower Douro to keep off Silveira, 
who had passed that river at Zamora. Moreover the Galicians 
had blockaded Astorga, and crossed the Orbigo. He felt that 
he could defend the line of the Douro with confidence, being 
aided by the line of fortified posts along it — Zamora, Toro, and 
Tordesillas. But to take the offensive against Wellington he 
must have 1,500 more cavalry and 7,000 more infantry than 
he actually had in hand — since the Anglo-Portuguese army 
was nearly 50,000 strong, and included 5,000 English horse.' 
This reinforcement was precisely what Caffarelli had promised, 
but by the 28th not one man of the Army of the North had 
reached Valladolid. ' If the general can trump up some valid 
excuse for not sending me the infantry, there is none for 
keeping back the cavalry — which is useless among his moun- 
tains — or the artillery, which lies idle at Burgos.' Would it 


not be possible for the Army of the Centre to lend the Army of 

Portugal Treillard's division of dragoons from the valley of the 

Tagus, since Caffarelli sent nothing ? If only the necessary 

reinforcements, 1,500 horse and 7,000 foot, came to hand, the 

Army of Portugal could take the offensive with a certainty of 

success * ; in eight days Wellington's designs could be foiled, 

and Salamanca could be recovered. But without that succour 

the Marshal must keep to the defensive behind the Douro — 

4 1 can combat the course of events, but cannot master them V 

This interesting dispatch explains all that followed. Mar- 

mont was prepared to fight whenever he could show a rough 

numerical equality with Wellington's army. He obtained it 

a few days later, by the arrival of Bonnet with his 6,500 infantry, 

and the increase of his cavalry by 800 or 900 sabres owing to 

measures hereafter to be described. On July 15th he had got 

together nearly 50,000 men of all arms, and at once took the 

offensive, according to the programme which he had laid down. 

It is, therefore, unfair to him to say that he declared himself 

unable to fight till he should have got reinforcements either 

i from Caffarelli or from Madrid, and then (in despite of his 

| declaration) attacked Wellington without having received 

| them. He may have been presumptuous in acting as he did, 

! but at least he gave his Commander-in-Chief fair notice, a fort- 

; night beforehand, as to his intentions. It was the misfortune 

i of the French that some of their dispatches miscarried, owing 

; to the activity of the guerrilleros, while others came to hand 

very late. Marmont and King Joseph — as we shall see — were 

very imperfectly and intermittently informed as to each other's 

doings. But the Marshal cannot reasonably be accused of 

1 In this dispatch and that of July 6 following, Marmont seems to under- 
state his own force at the moment, saying that he can dispose of only 
30,000 infantry, and 2,000 cavalry or a trifle over. Allowing for the 
artillery, engineers and sappers, gendarmerie and train, which the monthly 
returns show, this would give an army of some 35,000 or 36,000 in all. 
But the returns (see Appendix) indicate a higher figure for the infantry ; 
after all deductions for detachments, garrisons, and sick have been made, 
it looks as if there must have been 33,000 or even 34,000 available. Generals 
with a ' point to prove ' are always a little easy with their figures. 

This is again one of the Scovell intercepted cipher-dispatches, captured 
and brought to Wellington a day or two after it was written. It was 
a duplicate, and presumably the other copy reached Madrid. 


betraying or deluding the King out of jealousy or blind ambition, j 
When he had collected a force very nearly equal to Wellington's 
in numbers, and far superior in national homogeneity, he cannot 
be blamed over-much for attacking a foe whose fighting spirit 
and initiative he much undervalued. That his conception of 
Wellington's character and capacity was hopelessly wrong: 
cannot be denied : the estimate was to prove his ruin. But it 
had not been formed without much observation and experiment: 
after what he had seen on the Caya, and at Aldea da Ponte, 
and recently on the heights of San Cristobal, he thought he! 
could take liberties with his opponent. He was to be unde-! 
ceived in a very rude fashion before July was out. 



On July 2nd Wellington had arrived at the end of the first 
stage of his campaign. He had cleared the French out of the 
whole of southern Leon as far as the Douro, had taken the 
Salamanca forts, and had beaten off with ease Marmont's 
attempts to meddle with him. All this had been accomplished 
with the loss of less than 500 men. But the success, though 
marked, was not decisive, since the enemy's army had not been 
beaten in the open field, but only manoeuvred out of the 
considerable region that it had evacuated. The most tangible 
advantage secured was that Marmont had been cut off from 
Madrid and the Army of the Centre : he could now communi- 
cate with King Joseph only by the circuitous line through 
Segovia. All the guerrilleros of Castile, especially the bands of 
Saornil and Principe, were thrown on the Segovia and Avila 
roads, where they served Wellington excellently, for they 
captured most of the dispatches which were passing between 
King Joseph and Marmont, who were really out of touch with 
each other after the Marshal's retreat from the Tormes on 
June 27th. 

But till Marmont had been beaten in action nothing was 
settled, and Wellington had been disappointed of his hope that 
the Army of Portugal would attack him in position, and allow 
him to deal with it in the style of Bussaco. The Marshal had 
retired behind the Douro with his host intact : it was certain 
that he would be joined there by Bonnet's division from the 
Asturias, and very possible that he might also receive succour 
from the Army of the North. The junction of Bonnet would 
give him a practical equality in numbers with the British army : 
any considerable reinforcement from Caffarelli would make 
him superior in force. And there was still a chance that other 
French armies might intervene, though hitherto there were 


no signs of it. For it was only during the first fortnight of the 
campaign that Wellington could reckon on having to deal 
with his immediate adversary alone. He was bound to have 
that much start, owing to the wide dispersion of the French, 
and their difficulty in communicating with each other. But 
as the weeks wore on, and the enemy became more able to grasp 
the situation, there was a growing possibility that outlying 
forces might be brought up towards the Douro. If Marmont 
had only been defeated on June 21st this would have mattered 
little : and Wellington must have regretted more and more 
each day that he had not taken the obvious opportunity, and 
attacked the Army of Portugal when it placed itself, incom- 
plete and in a poor position, beneath the heights of San Cristobal. 
Now, however, since Marmont had got away intact, every- 
thing depended on the working of the various diversions which 
had been prepared to distract the other French armies. One 
of them, Sir Home Popham's, had succeeded to admiration, 
and had so scared Caffarelli that not a man of the Army of the 
North was yet in motion toward the Douro. And this fortunate 
expedition was to continue effective : for another three weeks 
Marmont got no succours from the army that was supposed 
to constitute his supporting force by the instructions of the 
Emperor and of King Joseph. But Wellington — not having 
the gift of prophecy, though he could see further into the fog 
of war than other men — was unable to rely with certainty 
on Caffarelli's continued abstinence from interference. As to 
Soult, there were as yet no signs of any trouble from Andalusia. 
The Duke of Dalmatia had somewhat reinforced D'Erlon's 
corps in Estremadura, but not to such an extent as threatened 
any real danger to Hill, who reported that he could keep 
D'Erlon in check on the Albuera position, and was not certain 
that he might not be able to attack him at advantage — a move 
for which he had his chief's permission \ If only Wellington 
had been fortunate enough to receive some of Soult's letters; 
to King Joseph, written in the second half of June, he would 
have been much reassured : for the Marshal was (as we shall 
see) refusing in the most insubordinate style to carry out th< 

1 See Wellington to Lord Liverpool, June 25. Dispatches, ix. pp. 253-4 
and to Hill, ix. pp. 256-7, and again to Lord Liverpool, ix. pp. 261-2. 


orders sent him to move troops northward. Two minor pieces 
of intelligence from the South were of no primary importance — 
though vexatious enough — one was that Ballasteros had 
ventured on a battle at Bornos on June 1, and got well beaten : 
but his army was not destroyed. The second was that General 
Slade had suffered a discreditable check at Maguilla on June 11th 
in a cavalry combat with Lallemand's dragoons. But neither 
of these events had much influence on Soult's general conduct 
at the time, as we shall show in the proper place. 

There remained one quarter from which Wellington had 
received information that was somewhat disturbing. An 
intercepted letter from King Joseph to D'Erlon showed that 
the latter had been directed to move towards the Tagus, and 
that the King himself was evidently thinking of bringing 
\ succour to Marmont, so far as his modest means allowed \ But 
since this projected operation seemed to depend on assistance 
being granted by Soult, and since it was doubtful in the highest 
degree whether Soult would give it, Wellington was not with- 
out hopes that it might come to nothing. 4 1 have requested 
the Empecinado,' he writes to Lord Liverpool, ' to alarm the 
King for the safety of his situation about Madrid, and I hope 
that Marshal Soult will find ample employment for his troops 
in the blockade of Cadiz, the continued operations of General 
Ballasteros, and those in Estremadura of Lieut. -General 
Hill, whose attention I have called to the probable march of 
this corps of the Army of the South through Estremadura.' As 
a matter of fact Soult prevented D'Erlon from giving any help 
to the King or Marmont ; but a contingency was to arise of 
which Wellington, on July 1st, could have no expectation — viz. 
that, though refused all help from the South, Joseph might 
come to the desperate but most soldier-like determination to 
march with his own little army alone to the Douro, in order to 
bring to bear such influence as he possessed on what was 
obviously a critical moment in the war. The King and Jourdan 

See Wellington to Lord Liverpool, June 18. Dispatches, ix. p. 241, and 
June 25, p. 253. There was also in Wellington's hands an intercepted 
letter of Joseph to Soult of May 26, distinctly saying that if Marmont is 
attacked in June, D'Erlon must pass the Tagus and go to his help. This 
is in the Scovell ciphers. 

omax. v c c 


were the only men in Spain who showed a true appreciation of 
the crisis : but they made their move too late : the fault was 
undoubtedly Soult's alone. However, on July 1st, Wellington 
was justified in doubting whether any danger would arise on 
the side of Madrid. Joseph could not move the Army of the 
Centre to the Douro, without risking his capital and abandoning 
all New Castile. As late as July 11th Wellington suspected 
that he would not make this extreme sacrifice, but would 
rather push a demonstration down the Tagus to alarm central 
Portugal, a hypothesis which did not much alarm him \ The 
King and Jourdan knew better than to make this indeci- 
sive move, and marched where their 14,000 men might have 
turned the whole course of the campaign — but marched too, 

There was still a chance that Suchet might be helping the 
King — this depended entirely on an unknown factor in the 
game, the diversion which Lord William Bentinck had promised 
to execute on the coast of Catalonia. If it had begun to work 
as it should have done, by the second half of June, there was 
little chance that any troops from the eastern side of Spair 
would interfere in the struggle on the Douro. But no informa 
tion of recent date was yet forthcoming : it was not till July 14tl 
that the vexatious news arrived that Lord William was faltering 
in his purpose, and thinking of plans for diverting his expe 
ditionary force to Italy. 

The situation, therefore, when Marmont went behind th 
Douro on July 1st, had many uncertain points : there wer 
several dangerous possibilities, but nothing had yet happenec 
to make ultimate success improbable. On the whole the mos 
disappointing factor was the conduct of the Army of Galicia 
will be remembered that Wellington had arranged for a doubl 
diversion on Marmont's flank and rear. Silveira, with t 
militia of the Tras-os-Montes and D'Urban's Portuguese cavalr 
brigade, was to cross the Esla and besiege Zamora. Santocilde 
with the Army of Galicia, had been directed to attack Astorj 
with part of his force, but to bring the main body forward 

1 Wellington to Hill, July 11. Dispatches, ix. p. 281. The idea tty 
Joseph might operate on his own account begins to emerge in the con 
spondence on the 14th. Dispatches, ix. p. 283. 


the Esla and overrun the plains of northern Leon. Silveira 
had but a trifling force, and the task allotted to him was small : 
but on July 1st he had not yet reached Zamora with his infantry, 
and was only at Car vaj ales on the Esla \ On the other hand 
D'Urban's cavalry had pushed boldly forward in front of him, 
had swept the whole north bank of the Douro as far as Toro, 
and reported that all the French garrisons save Astorga, 
Zamora, and Toro had been drawn in — that Benavente, Leon, 
and all the northern plain were unoccupied. On July 2 D'Urban 
was at Castronuevo, north of Toro, right in the rear of Mar- 
mont's flank — a very useful position, since it enabled him to 
keep up communication between Silveira and the Galicians, as 
well as to report any movement of the French right. Moreover, 
though his force was very small, only 800 sabres, it was enough 
to prevent any foraging parties from Marmont's rear from 
exploiting the resources of the north bank of the Douro. Some 
such appeared, but were driven in at once, so that the Marshal 
had to live on his magazines and the villages actually within 
his lines : in the end these resources would be exhausted, and 
the old choice — starvation or dispersion — would once more be 
presented to the Army of Portugal 2 . 

But as a military body neither D'Urban's 800 horse nor 
Silveira's 4,000 militia had any threatening power against 
Marmont's rear. They might almost be neglected, while the 
real pressure which Wellington had intended to apply in this 
quarter was not forthcoming. He had hoped that, by the time 
|that he and Marmont were at close quarters, the Army of 
Galicia would have been taking a useful part in the campaign. 
It was not that he intended to use it as a fighting force : but if 
it could have appeared in the French rear 15,000 strong, it would 
have compelled Marmont to make such a large detachment 

1 By no fault of his own, according to D'Urban. The orders for him to 
move were, by some delay at head-quarters, only forthcoming on June 8th. 
Only two of the four Tras-os-Montes militia regiments were then mobilized, 
and it took a long time to collect the rest and the transport needed for 
moving across the frontier. 

D'Urban's manoeuvres on both sides of the Douro are detailed at great 
length in his very interesting diary, and his official correspondence, both 
of which have been placed at my disposal. He worked on both sides of the 
Douro, but went definitely north of it after July 1. 

C C 2 


for the purpose of ' containing ' it, that he would have been 
left in a marked numerical inferiority on the Douro. 

Unfortunately the Galicians moved late, in small numbers, 
and with marked timidity. They exercised no influence what- 
ever on the course of the campaign, either in June or in July. 
Yet after Bonnet evacuated the Asturias and went off eastward 
on June 15th, the Army of Galicia had no field-force of any 
kind in front of it. The only French left in its neighbourhood 
were the 1,500 men * who formed the garrison of Astorga. 
Castafios, who had moved up to Santiago in June, and assumed 
command, did not take the field himself, but handed over the 
charge of the troops at the front to Santocildes. The latter 
sat down in front of Astorga with his main body, and only 
pushed forward a weak division under Cabrera to Benavente, 
where it was still too remote from Marmont to cause him any 
disquiet. The siege of Astorga was only a blockade till July 
2nd, as no battering-train was brought up till that date. 
First Abadia, and later Castafios had pleaded that they had 
no means for a regular siege, and it was not till Sir Howard 
Douglas pointed out a sufficient store of heavy guns in the 
arsenal of Corunna, that Castafios began to scrape together the 
battering-train that ultimately reached Astorga 2 . But this 
was not so much the weak point in the operations of the 
Galician army, as the fact that, of 15,000 men brought togethej 
on the Orbigo, only 3,800 were pushed forward to the Esla 
while the unnecessarily large remainder conducted a leisurelji 
siege of the small garrison of Astorga. Wellington had reckonee 
on having an appreciable force, 10,000 or 12,000 men, at th( 
front, molesting Marmont's flank ; this would have forced th< 
Marshal to make a large detachment to keep it off. But noi 
a man appeared on the east bank of the Esla, and the operation 
of D'Urban's small brigade were of far more service to the mail 
army than that of the whole of the Galicians. Marmon 
ignored the presence of the few thousand men pushed forwan 
to Benavente, and was justified in so doing. Meanwhile Santo 

1 Two battalions of 23rd Leger and one of 1st Line from Thomieres 

2 For the curious story of their ignorance of their own resources se 
Sir Howard Douglas's Life, pp. 156-7. 


cildes, with an optimism that proved wholly unjustifiable, sent 
messages that Astorga would be taken within a few days, and that 
he would then move forward with his main body. As a matter 
of fact the place held out till the 18th of August. 

Wellington, therefore, was building on a false hypothesis when 

he wrote to Lord Bathurst, on July 7, that he was surveying 

\ all the fords of the Douro, and waiting till the river should 

have fallen a little and made them more practicable. ' By that 

time I hope that the Army of Galicia under General Santocildes 

will have been able to advance, the siege of Astorga having 

: been brought to a conclusion V Two days later he added, ' it 

i would not answer to cross the river at all in its present state, 

unless we should be certain of having the co-operation of the 

Galician troops V His delay in making an attempt to force the 

line of the Douro, therefore, may be attributed in the main 

to the tiresome conduct of Santocildes, who played to him 

much the same part that Caffarelli played to Marmont. 

While remaining in this waiting posture, Wellington placed 

his troops opposite the various passages of the Douro, on a line 

of some fifteen miles. His left, consisting of the 3rd Division, 

Pack's and Bradford's Portuguese, and Carlos de Espana's 

Spaniards, with Le Marchant's and Bock's heavy dragoons, lay 

i near the point where the Trabancos falls into the Douro, holding 

i the ford of Polios, where the favourable configuration of the 

1 ground enabled them to be sure of the passage, the enemy's line 

being perforce drawn back to some distance on the north bank. 

It was always open to Wellington to use this ford, when he 

should determine on a general advance. The Light, 4th, 5th, 

1 and 6th Divisions, forming the right wing, lay opposite Torde- 

I sillas, with Rueda and La Seca behind them. Their front was 

; covered by Alten's cavalry brigade, their right (or outer) flank 

i by Anson's. The reserve was formed by the 1st and 7th 

Divisions quartered at Medina del Campo, ten miles to the rear. 

The whole could be assembled for an offensive or a defensive 

move in a day's march. 

Marmont was drawn up, to face the attack that he expected, in 
an almost equally close and concentrated formation : his front, 
extending from the junction of the Pisuerga with the Douro 
1 Dispatches, ix. p. 274. 2 Ib ; d., ix. p. 276. 


near Simancas on his left, to the ground opposite the ford 
of Polios on his right, was very thickly held x ; but on the 5th j 
he rightly conceived doubts as to whether it would not be I 
easy for Wellington to turn his western flank, by using the ford 
of Castro Nuno and other passages down-stream from Polios. 
He then detached Foy's division to Toro and the neighbourhood, 
to guard against such a danger : but this was still an insufficient j 
provision, since Toro is fifteen miles from Polios, and a single 
division of 5,000 men would have to watch rather than defend i 
such a length of river-line, if it were attacked in force. Therefore 
when Bonnet, so long expected in vain, arrived from the North 
on July 7th, Marmont placed him in this portion of his line, fori 
the assistance of Foy. He still retained six divisions massed i 
around Tordesillas, whose unbroken bridge gave him a secure 
access to the southern bank of the Douro. With this mass of 
35,000 men in hand, he could meet Wellington with a solid body, 
if the latter crossed the Douro at or below Polios. Or he might 
equally well take the more daring step of assuming a counter 
offensive, and marching from Tordesillas on Salamanca against 
his adversary's communications, if the allies threatened his own 
by passing the river and moving on Valladolid. 

A word to explain the tardiness of Bonnet's arrival in com- 
parison with the earliness of his start is perhaps required. He 
had evacuated Oviedo and Gijon and his other posts in th( 
Asturias as early as June 14th, the actual day on which Welling 
ton commenced his offensive campaign. This he did not ir; 
consequence of Marmont's orders, which only reached him whei 
he had begun to move, but on his own responsibility. H< 
had received correct information as to the massing of the alliec 
army round Ciudad Rodrigo, and of the forward movemen 
of the Galicians towards Astorga. He knew of the dispersec 
state of Marmont's host, and saw the danger to himself. Shouk 
the Marshal concentrate about Salamanca, he could neve 
join him, if the whole Army of Galicia threw itself between 
Wherefore not only did he resolve to retreat at once, but he di< 

1 An interesting dispatch from D'Urban to Beresford describes th 
information he had got on the 5th by a daring reconnaissance alon 
Marmont's rear : there was not that morning any French force west c 
Monte de Cubillos, six miles down-stream from Polios. 


not move by the pass of Pajares and Leon — the obvious route 
to rejoin the Army of Portugal. For fear that he might be 
intercepted, he took the coast-road, picking up the small 
garrisons that he had placed in one or two small ports. He 
reached Santander on the 22nd, not molested so much as he 
might have been by the bands of Porlier and Longa (whose 
haunts he was passing), because the bulk of them had gone off 
to help in Sir Home Popham's raid on Biscay. From Santander 
he turned inland, passed Reynosa, in the heart of the Cantabrian 
Sierras, on the 24th June, and arrived at Aguilar del Campo, 
the first town in the province of Palencia, on the 29th. From 
thence he had a long march of seven days in the plains, before 
he reached Valladolid on the 6th, and reported himself at 
Marmont's head-quarters on the 7th of July. He brought with 
him a strong division of 6,500 infantry, a light field-battery, and 
a single squadron of Chasseurs — even 100 sabres * were a wel- 
come reinforcement to Marmont's under-horsed army. It was 
an odd fact that Bonnet's division had never before met the 
English in battle, though one of its regiments had seen them 
during the last days of Sir John Moore's retreat in January 
1809 2 . For the three years since that date they had always 
been employed in the Asturias. 

The arrival of Bonnet brought up the total of Marmont's 
infantry to 43,000 men, and his guns to 78. The cavalry still 
remained the weak point : but by a high-handed and unpopular 
measure the Marshal succeeded, during his stay on the Douro, in 
procuring nearly 1,000 horses for the dismounted dragoons who 
were encumbering his depot at Valladolid. In the French, as 
in the British, Peninsular army it had become common for 
many of the junior officers of the infantry to provide themselves 
with a riding-horse ; most captains and many lieutenants had 
them. And their seniors, chefs de bataillon and colonels, 
habitually had several horses more than they were entitled to. 
Marmont took the heroic measure of proclaiming that he should 
enforce the regulations, and that all unauthorized horses were 

Ninety-four to be exact. See 28th Chasseurs in table of Marmont's 
army in Appendix. 

1 The 122nd Line had been in Mermet's division, in January 1809, but 
they had been in reserve at Corunna, and had not fired a shot in that battle. 


confiscated. He paid, however, a valuation for each beast on a 
moderate scale — otherwise the act would have been intolerable. 
In this way, including some mounts requisitioned from doctors, 
commissaries, and suttlers, about 1,000 horses in all were 
procured. The number of cavalry fit for the field had gone up 
by July 15th from about 2,200 to 3,200 — a total which was only 
300 less than Wellington's full strength of British sabres. It 
occurs to the casual observer that the horses, having never been 
trained to squadron drill or to act in mass, must have been 
difficult to manage, even though the riders were competent 
horsemen. This may have something to do with the very 
ineffective part played by the French cavalry in the next fort- 
night's campaigning. 

A quaint anecdote of the time shows us General Taupin, an 
old Revolutionary veteran, with all the officers of his brigade 
called together in a village church. ' He ascended the pulpit 
and thundered against the abuse of horses in the infantry : he 
would make an end of all baggage carried on mules or asses, but 
most especially of the officers' riding-horses. " Gentlemen," he 
cried, " in 1793 we were allowed a haversack as our only baggage, 
a stone as our only pillow." Well — it was a long time since 
1793 : we were in 1812, and the speaker, this old and gallant 
soldier, had six baggage mules himself V 

During the first ten days after the deadlock on the Douro 
began, the French were much puzzled by Wellington's refusal 
to continue his advance. Foy, the ablest of them, noted in his 
diary that he must conclude either that the enemy was not 
numerous enough to take the offensive — his strength might 
have been over- valued — or else that he was waiting for Hill to 
bring up his corps from Estremadura. This last idea, indeed, 
was running in the brains of many French strategists : it 
obsessed Jourdan and King Joseph at Madrid, who were well 
aware that Hill, marching by Alcantara and the passes of the 
Sierra de Gata, could have got to the Douro in half the time 
that it would have taken his opponent, D'Erlon, who would 
have had to move by Toledo, Madrid, and Segovia. But the 
simple explanation is to be found in Wellington's dispatch to 
Lord Bathurst of July 13. 'It is obvious that we could no 
1 Mtmoircs of Lemonnier-Delafosse of the 31st Leger, pp. 177-8. 


cross the Douro without sustaining great loss, and could not 
fight a general action under circumstances of greater disad- 
vantage. . . . The enemy's numbers are equal, if not superior, 
to ours : they have in their position thrice the amount of 
artillery that we have, and we are superior in cavalry alone — 
which arm (it is probable) could not be used in the sort of 
attack we should have to make V He then proceeds to demon- 
strate the absolute necessity of bringing forward the Army of 
Galicia against Marmont's rear. Its absence was the real cause 
of the deadlock in which he found himself involved. All 
offensive operations were postponed — meanwhile the enemy 
might receive reinforcements and attack, since he had not been 
attacked. ' But I still hope that I shall be able to retain, at the 
close of this campaign, those acquisitions which we made at its 

Meanwhile Marmont, having had a fortnight to take stock 
of his position, and halving received reinforcements which very 
nearly reached the figure that he had named to King Joseph 
as the minimum which would enable ! m to take the offensive, 
was beginning to get restless. He had now realized that he 
would get no practical assistance from Caffarelli, who still kept 
sending him letters exaggerating the terrors of Sir Home 
Popham's raid on Biscay. They said that there were six ships 
of the line engaged in it, and that there was a landing-force 
of British regulars : Bonnet's evacuation of the Asturias had 
allowed all the bands of Cantabria to turn themselves loose on 
Biscay — Bilbao was being attacked — and so forth. This being 
so, it was only possible to send a brigade of cavalry and a horse 
artillery battery — anything more was useless to ask 2 . This 
was written on June 26th, but by July 11th not even the 
cavalry brigade had started from Vittoria, as was explained 
by a subsequent letter, which only reached Marmont after he 
had already started on an offensive campaign 3 . As a matter 
of fact, Caffarelli 's meagre contribution of 750 sabres 4 and one 

1 Wellington to Bathurst. Dispatches, ix. p. 284. 

Caffarelli to Marmont, in the latter's Me'moires, iv. p. 417. 
3 Ibid., pp. 421-2. 

He sent finally only two regiments, not three as he had originally 


battery actually got off on July 16th 1 . Marmont may be 
pardoned for having believed that it would never start at all, 
when it is remembered that a month had elapsed since he first 
asked for aid, and that every two days he had been receiving 
dispatches of excuse, but no reinforcements. He had no 
adequate reason for thinking that even the trifling force which 
did in the end start out would ever arrive. 

Nor, as he demonstrates clearly enough in his defence of his 
operations, had he any more ground for believing that Joseph 
and Jourdan would bring him help from Madrid. They resolved 
to do so in the end, and made a vigorous effort to collect as large 
a force as was possible. But the announcement of their inten- 
tion was made too late to profit Marmont. The dispatch 
conveying it was sent off from Madrid only on July 9th 2 , and 
never reached the Marshal at all, for the two copies of it, sent 
by separate messengers, were both captured by guerrilleros 
between Madrid and Valladolid, and came into Wellington's 
instead of into Marmont's hands. This was a consequence of 
the insecurity of the communication via Segovia, the only one 
route open when the Army of Portugal retired behind the Douro. 
On July 12th the last piece of intelligence from Madrid which 
Marmont had received was a dispatch from Jourdan dated 
June 30th — it had taken twelve days to get 150 miles, which i 
shows the shifts to which its bearer had been exposed. This 
letter is so important, as showing what the King and Jourdan 
opined at the moment, that its gist is worth giving. 

Jourdan begins by complaining that on June 30 the last 
dispatch from the Army of Portugal to hand was sixteen days 
old, of the date of June 14th. It is clear, then, that no copies of 
the reports sent by Marmont on June 22 and June 24 had got 
to Madrid — a circumstance to be explained by the fact that 
Wellington had them instead of their destined recipient 3 . 
Jourdan then proceeds to say that he is informed that Welling- 
ton has 50,000 men, but only 18,000 of them British. 'The 
King thinks that if this is so, you are strong enough to beat his 

1 Caffarellf to Marmont, in the latter' s Mtmoires, iv. p. 425, announcing 
their departure. 

" Original is in the Scovell ciphers. It seems to be unpublished. 
3 They are both in the Scovell ciphers, and quoted above, p. 370. 


army, and would like to know the motives which have prevented 
you from taking the offensive. He charges me to invite you to 
explain them by express messenger.' In the South it was known 
that Hill, with 18,000 men, was advancing on June 18th against 
D'Erlon. That officer was to be reinforced from Seville, and 
was probably at close quarters with Hill. The King had sent 
orders that D'Erlon was to move northward into the valley of the 
Tagus, if Hill marched up to join Wellington. But, it being 
probable that the order would not be very promptly executed, 
* his Majesty would like you to take advantage of the moment, 
when Wellington has not all his forces in hand, to fight him. 
The King has asked for troops from Marshal Suchet, but they 
will never be sent. All that His Majesty can do at present is 
to reinforce the garrison of Segovia, and order its governor, 
General Espert, to help the garrison of Avila, if necessary, and 
to supply it with food.' 

This letter, which clearly gives no hope of immediate help 
for the Army of Portugal from Madrid, and which might be 
taken as a direct incitement to bring Wellington to action at 
once, must be read in conjunction with the last epistle that 
Marmont had received from the same quarter. This was 
a letter of the King's dated June 18. The important paragraph 
of it runs as follows : — 

* If General Hill has remained with his 18,000 men on the 
left (south) bank of the Tagus, you ought to be strong enough 
to beat the English army, more especially if you have received 
any reinforcements from the Army of the North. You must 
choose your battlefield, and make your best dispositions. But if 
Hill joins the main English army, I fancy they are too strong 
for you. In that case you must manoeuvre to gain time. 
I should not hesitate to give you a positive order to defer 
fighting, if I were certain that Count D'Erlon and his 15,000 
men, and a division from the Army of Aragon, were on their 
way to you : for on their arrival the English army would be 
seriously compromised. But being wholly uncertain about 
them, I must repeat to you that if General Hill is still on the 
south side of the Tagus, you should choose a good position and 
give battle with all your troops united : but if General Hill 
joins Lord Wellington, you must avoid an action as long as 


possible, in order to pick up the reinforcements which will 
certainly reach you in the end V 

I think that there can be no doubt in the mind of any honest 
critic that on the strength of these two dispatches from his 
Commander-in-Chief, Marmont was justified in taking the 
offensive against Wellington, without waiting for that help 
from Madrid which the King had not offered him. Hill being 
far away, and Wellington having no more than his own seven 
divisions of Anglo-Portuguese, Marmont is decidedly authorized 
to bring him to action. The sole factor which the second 
Madrid dispatch states wrongly, is the proportion of British 
troops in the allied army : Jourdan guesses that there are 50,000 
men, but only 18,000 British. As a matter of fact there were 
49,000 men at the moment 2 , but about 30,000 were British. 
This made a difference, no doubt, and Marmont, if he had been 
determined to avoid a battle, might have pleaded it as his 
justification. But he was not set on any such timid policy : 
he had wellnigh attacked Wellington at San Cristobal on 
June 21st, when he had not yet received his own reinforce- 
ments. When Bonnet had come up, and the British had 
obtained no corresponding addition to their strength, he was 
eager to take the offensive, and Joseph's and Jourdan's dis- 
patches distinctly authorized him to do so. 

After the disaster of Salamanca, Napoleon drew up an 
indictment of Marmont, of which the three chief heads were : 

(1) He took the offensive without waiting for reinforcements 
which were to join him. 

(2) He delivered battle without the authorization of his 

(3) He might, by waiting only two days longer, before he com- 
mitted himself to a general action, have received at least the 
cavalry and guns which he knew that Caffarelli had sent him 3 . 

The very complete answer to these charges is that : 

(1) When the Marshal took the offensive he had no reason 

1 Joseph to Marmont, June 18, in Ducasse's Correspondance, ix. pp. 28-8ft. 

8 Two battalions, the 1/38 and l/5th, joined before the battle of the 
22nd, bringing up the total force by 1,500 bayonets more. 

3 See the letter of Clarke to Marmont enclosing the Emperor's indictment, 
in Marmont* s Meinoires, iv. pp. 453-4. 


to suppose that any reinforcements were coming. Caffarelli 
had excused himself : the King had promised succour only if 
Hill joined Wellington, not otherwise. Hill had never appeared : 
therefore no help was likely to come from the southward. 

(2) He had clear permission from Joseph to give battle, 
unless Hill should have joined Wellington. 

(3) The succours from Caffarelli, a weak cavalry brigade and 
one battery, were so small that their arrival would have made 
no practical difference to the strength of the army. But to 
have waited two days for them, after the campaign had com- 
menced, would have given Wellington the opportunity of 
concentrating, and taking up a good position. It was only 
after the manoeuvring had begun [July 15th] that this little 
brigade started from Vittoria, on July 16th. The Army of 
Portugal had already committed itself to offensive operations, 
and could not halt for two days in the midst of them, without 
losing the initiative. 

From his own point of view, then, Marmont was entirely 
justified in recrossing the Douro and assuming the offensive. 
He had got all the reinforcements that he could count upon : they 
made his army practically equal to Wellington's in numbers : 
in homogeneity it was far superior. If he had waited a little 
longer, he might have found 12,000 men of the Army of Galicia 
at his back, setting all Old Castile and Leon aflame. Moreover 
Astorga was only victualled up to August 1st, and might fall 
any day. He could not have foreseen King Joseph's unex- 
pected march to his aid, which no dispatch received before 
July 12th rendered likely. His misfortune (or fault) was that 
he undervalued the capacity of Wellington to manoeuvre, his 
readiness to force on an offensive battle, and (most of all) the 
fighting value of the Anglo-Portuguese army. 

It cannot be denied that Marmont's method of taking the 
offensive against Wellington was neat and effective. It con- 
sisted in a feint against his adversary's left wing, followed by 
a sudden countermarch and a real attack upon his right wing. 

On July 15th Foy and Bonnet, with the two divisions 
forming the French right, received orders to restore the bridge 
of Toro, to drive in Wellington's cavalry screen in front of it, 
and to cross to the south bank of the Douro. At the same time 


the divisions of the French centre, opposite the fords of Polios, 
made an ostentatious move down-stream towards Toro, accom- 
panied by the Marshal himself, and those on the left, near Torde- 
sillas, shifted themselves towards Polios. Almost the whole 
French army was clearly seen marching westward, and the two 
leading divisions were actually across the river next morning, and 
seemed to be heading straight for Salamanca by the Toro road. 

Wellington was deceived, exactly as Marmont had intended. 
He drew the obvious conclusion that his adversary was about 
to turn his left flank, and to strike at Salamanca and his line 
of communications. It would have been in his power to make 
a corresponding move against Valladolid, Marmont's base. But 
his own line of communications meant much more to him than 
did Marmont's. There was a great difference between the posi- 
tion of an army living by transport and magazines, and that 
of an army living on the country by plunder, like that of the 
French marshal. Wellington had always been jealous of his 
left wing, and as early as July 12 had drawn up an elaborate 
order of march, providing for the contingency of the enemy 
crossing the Douro at Toro and the ford of Castro Nuno. If 
his entire force seemed on the move, the whole British army 
would make a corresponding shift westward — if only a division 
or two, the mass transferred would be less in similar proportion. 
He had no idea of defending the actual course of the river : in 
a letter written a few days later to Lord Bathurst, he remarked 
that ' it was totally out of my power to prevent the enemy 
from crossing the Douro at any point at which he might think 
it expedient, as he had in his possession all the bridges [Toro 
and Tordesillas] and many of the fords 1 .' His plan was to 
concentrate against the crossing force, and fight a defensive 
action against it, wherever a good position might be available. 

There were two reasons for which Wellington regarded 
a genuine offensive move of Marmont by Toro and Castro 
Nuno as probable. The first was that he had received King 
Joseph's dispatch of July 9th, captured by guerrilleros, which 
gave him the startling news that the King had resolved to 
evacuate all New Castile save Madrid and Toledo, and to 
march with his field-force of some 14,000 men to join the Army 
1 See Supplementary Dispatches, xiv. p. 08. 


of Portugal 1 . Wellington wrote to Graham (who was now on his 
way home) early on the 16th, that either the Galicians' approach 
on his rear had induced Marmont to collect his troops near 
Toro, or he had heard that Joseph was gathering the Army of 
the Centre at Madrid, and was threatening the allied left ' in 
order to prevent us from molesting the King.' It was clear that 
if Wellington had to shift westward to protect his line of 
communications, he could make no detachment to ' contain ' 
King Joseph, who would be approaching from the south-east. 
Another letter, written an hour or so later, says, ' these move- 
ments of Marmont are certainly intended to divert our attention 
from the Army of the Centre (which is collecting at Madrid), if 
he knows of this circumstance, which I doubt 2 .' The doubt was 
well grounded. 

That the whole movement on Toro was a feint did not occur 
to Wellington, but his orders of the 16th, given in the evening, 
after he had heard that two French divisions were actually 
across the Douro on his left, provide for the possibility that 
some serious force may still remain at Tordesillas and may 
require observation. 

The orders direct the transference of the great bulk of the 
allied army to a position which will cover the road Toro- 
Salamanca. They were issued in the evening to the following 
; effect. The reserve (1st and 7th Divisions) was to march from 
J Medina del Campo to Alaejos beyond the Trabancos river, and 
subsequently to Canizal and Fuente la Pena behind the Guarena 
river. The left wing, which was watching the fords of Polios 
1 (3rd Division, Bock's cavalry, Bradford's and Carlos de Espana's 
infantry), to Castrillo on the Guarena. Of the right wing the 
6th Division and two regiments of Le Marchant's horse were 
to move on Fuente la Pena, the 5th Division on Canizal. 
Alten's cavalry brigade was to follow the 1st Division. This 
left the 4th and Light Divisions and Anson's cavalry still 
unaccounted for. They were set aside to act as a sort of rear- 
guard, being directed to move westward only as far as Castrejon 
on the Trabancos river, ten miles short of the concentration- 
point on the Toro road, to which the rest of the army was 

See Dispatches, ix. p. 294. 

Wellington to Clinton, July 16, 7 a.m. Dispatches, ix. p. 291. 


ordered to proceed. It is clear (though Wellington does not 
say so) that they would serve as a containing force, if the enemy 
had left any troops at Tordesillas, and brought them over the 
Douro there, or at the fords of Polios. 

All these moves were duly executed, and on the morning of 
the 17th Wellington's army was getting into position to with- 
stand the expected advance of the enemy on Salamanca by 
the Toro road. This attack, however, failed to make itself 
felt, and presently news came that the two divisions of Foy 
and Bonnet, which had crossed the Douro at Toro, had gone 
behind it again, and destroyed their bridge. What Marmont 
had done during the night of the 16th-17th was to reverse the 
marching order of his whole army, the rear suddenly becoming 
the head, and the head the rear. The divisions to the eastward, 
which had not yet got near Toro, countermarched on Torde- 
sillas, and crossed its bridge, with the light cavalry at their 
head. Those which had reached Toro brought up the rear, 
and followed, with Foy and Bonnet, at the tail of the column. 
This was a most fatiguing march for all concerned, the distance 
from Toro to Tordesillas being about twenty miles, and the 
operation being carried out in the night hours. But it was 
completely successful — during the morning of the 17th the 
vanguard, consisting of Clausel's and Maucune's divisions and 
Curto's chasseurs a cheval, was pouring over the bridge of 
Tordesillas and occupying Rueda and La Seca, which the 
British had evacuated fifteen hours before. The rest followed, 
the two rear divisions cutting a corner, and saving a few miles, 
by crossing the ford of Polios. This was a safe move, when the 
cavalry had discovered that there were none of Wellington's 
troops left east of the Trabancos river. By night on the 17th 
the bulk of the French army was concentrated at Nava del Rey, 
ten miles south-west of Tordesillas. In the afternoon Welling- 
ton's rearguard, the 4th and Light Divisions, and Anson's 
cavalry had been discovered in position at Castrejon, where 
their commander had halted them, when he discovered that he 
had been deceived as to his adversary's purpose. The rest of 
the British army had concentrated, according to orders, in the 
triangle Canizal-Castrillo-Fuente la Pena, behind the Guarena 
river and in front of the Toro-Salamanca road. 










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Wellington's first task was to drawback his rearguard to 
join his main body, without allowing it to become seriously 
engaged with the great mass of French in its front. This he 
undertook in person, marching at daylight with all his dis- 
posable cavalry, the brigades of Bock and Le Marchant, to join 
the force at Castrejon, while he threw out the 5th Division to 
Torrecilla de la Orden to act as a supporting echelon on the 
; flank of the retiring detachment. The remaining divisions 
(1st, 3rd, 6th, 7th) took up a position in line of battle on the 
heights above the Guarena, ready to receive their comrades 
when they should appear. 

The charge of the rearguard this day was in the hands of 
Stapleton Cotton, the senior cavalry officer with the army, who 
outranked Cole and Charles Alten, the commanders of the 
4th and Light Divisions. He had received no orders during 
the night, and his last, those of the preceding afternoon, had 
directed him to halt, till his chief should have discovered the 
true position and aim of the French army. Wellington ex- 
plained, in his next dispatch home, that the various details of 
intelligence, which enabled him to grasp Marmont's whole plan, 
did not reach him till so late on the 17th that it was useless 
to send Cotton orders to start. They could only be carried 
out at dawn, and he himself intended to be present with the 
rearguard before the sun was far above the horizon. He 
arrived at seven o'clock in the morning, in time to find his 
lieutenant already engaged with the French van, but not 
committed to any dangerous close fighting. Cotton had, 
very wisely, sent out patrols before daylight to discover 
exactly what was in front of him ; if it was only a trifling 
body he intended to drive it in, and advance towards La 
Nava and Rueda 1 ; if Marmont was in force he would take 
up a defensive position at Castrejon, and wait for further 

The patrols soon ran into French cavalry advancing in 
force, and were driven back upon Anson's brigade, which was 
drawn up on a long front in advance of the village of Castrejon. 
On seeing it, the enemy brought up two batteries of horse 

See report of one of the officers commanding patrols, Tomkinson of the 
16th L.D. in the latter's Memoirs, p. 180. 
oman. v D d 


artillery, and began to play upon the scattered squadrons. 
Bull's and Ross's troops * were ordered out to reply, and did 
so with effect, but the total strength of the French cavalry was 
too great, and Anson's regiments had presently to give way, 
though not so much owing to the pressure on their front as 
to the sight of a large column of French infantry turning the 
left of their line, and marching on Alaejos, with the obvious 
intention of getting round to their left rear and molesting their 
retreat towards the Guarena, where the main body of the British 
army was awaiting them. 

Wellington was involved in person in the end of the cavalry 
bickering, and in no very pleasant fashion. He and Beresford, 
with their staffs, had arrived on the field about seven o'clock, 
in advance of the two heavy cavalry brigades, who were coming 
up to reinforce Cotton. He rode forward to the left of the 
skirmishing line, where two squadrons, one of the 11th and one 
of the 12th Light Dragoons, were supporting two guns oij 
Ross's troop, on high ground above the ravine of the Trabancosj 
river. Just as the Commander-in-Chief came on the scene 
a squadron of French cavalry, striking in from the flank, rod< 
at the guns, not apparently seeing the supporting troops 
They met and broke the squadron of the 12th Light Dragoons| 
which came up the hill to intercept them. ' Some of Marsha 1 
Beresford's staff, seeing this, and conceiving the guns to be h 
danger, rode up to the retiring squadron calling "Three 
about 2 1 " ' This unfortunately was heard by the supportinj 
squadron of the 11th, who, imagining the order to be directs 
to themselves, went about and retired, instead of advancing t 
relieve their broken comrades above. Therefore the mass c 
pursuers and pursued from the combat on the flank, cam 
hurtling down on the guns, and on the head-quarters staff jus 
behind them. Wellington and Beresford and their follower 
were swept away in the rout, and had to draw their sword 
to defend themselves. Fortunately the misdirected squadro 
of the 11th soon saw their mistake ; they halted and turnec 
and falling on the scattered and exhausted French dragoorj 
drove them back with great loss ; few, it is said, except the! 

1 Belonging one to the cavalry, the other to the Light Division. 

2 Tomkinson, p. 188, 


chef d'escadron, who showed uncommon gallantry, got away \ 
| It was a dangerous moment for the allied army — a chance 
thrust in the mSlee might have killed or disabled Wellington, 
and have thrown the command into the hands of Beresford or 
Stapleton Cotton. 

Wellington had no sooner detected the flank movement of 

( Marmont's infantry towards Alaejos, than he ordered the 4th 

and Light Divisions to retire towards the Guarena, covered 

by G. Anson's brigade, while Bock's and Le Marchant's heavy 

dragoons, farther to the left, drew up in front of the infantry 

| of the turning column, and detained it, retiring, when pressed, 

j by alternate brigades. Marmont's whole army was now visible, 

[moving on in two long columns, of which the more southern 

followed the 4th and Light Divisions, in the direction of Torre- 

; cilia de la Orden, and tried to come up with their rear, while 

the other, passing through Alaejos, made by the high-road for 

Castrillo on the Guarena, where the British reserves were 


There was a long bickering fight across the eight miles of 
rolling ground between the Trabancos and the Guarena, not 
without some exciting moments for Wellington's rearguard. 
After passing Torrecilla de la Orden, and picking up there the 
|5th Division, which had been waiting as a supporting echelon 
; to cover their southern flank, all the British infantry had to 
! march very hard, for troops diverging from the northern 
French column got close in upon their right, and, moving 
parallel with them, bid fair to reach the Guarena first. In the 
retreat the 4th Division moved on the right, and was therefore 
most exposed, the Light Division next them, the 5th Division 
farther south and more distant from the turning column of the 
French. The cavalry pursuit in the rear of the retreating force 
was never really dangerous : it was held off by Le Marchant's 
Heavy and Anson's Light Dragoons without any great difficulty, 
and the 5th and Light Divisions only suffered from some 
distant shelling by the French horse artillery. But the 4th 

Compare Tomkinson's narrative of this incident (pp. 180-1) with 
Napier's vivid and well-told tale (iv. pp. 254-5). Both agree that the 
French were inferior in numbers to the two squadrons, and that there was 
deplorable confusion. 

D d2 


Division, though covered from the pursuit in their direct rean 
by Bock's German squadrons, found a dangerous point about) 
a mile on the near side of the Guarena, where two batteries from! 
the French turning column had galloped forward to a knoll, 
commanding the ground over which they had to pass, and; 
opened a teasing fire upon the flank of the brigades as they 
marched by. General Cole, however, threw out his divisional 
battery and all his light companies to form a screen against 
their attack, and moved on, protected by their fire, without; 
turning from his route. The covering force fell in to the reai 
when the defiling was over, and the division suffered small loss 
from its uncomfortable march \ 

Wellington allowed all the three retreating divisions to haHj 
for a moment on the farther side of the stream, at the botton 
of the trough in which it runs. 4 The halt near the water! 
short as it was, gave refreshment and rest to the troops, afteii 
a rapid march over an arid country in extremely hot weather 2 .| 
But it could not be allowed to last for more than a very fevl 
minutes, for the pursuing enemy soon appeared in force aj 
several points on the heights above the eastern bank of th« 
Guarena, and many batteries opened successively on the thre< 
divisions, who were of necessity compelled to resume their marc) 
up the slope to the crest, on their own side of the water 
Here they fell into position on Wellington's chosen defensiv 
fighting-ground, the 4th Division forming the extreme northen 
section of the battle array, by the village of Castrillo, the Ligh 
and 5th Divisions falling in to the line of troops already drawj 
up in front of Canizal, while the 1st and 7th Divisions wer! 
extended to the south, to form the new right wing, and too"; 
their place on the heights of Vallesa, above the village and for 
of El Olmo. 

Some anxious hours had been spent while the retreat was i! 
progress, but Wellington was now safe, with every man concei 

1 See Vere's Marches and Movements of the 4th Division, p. 28. Napier 
statement that the Light Division was more exposed than the 4th or 51] 
during the retreat, seems to be discounted by the fact that it had not oij 
man killed or wounded — the 5th Division had only two (in the 3rd Royj 
Scots), the 4th Division over 200 ; and though most of them fell in tli 
last charge, a good number were hit in the retreat. 

2 Vere's Marches and Movements of the 4th Division, p. 28. 


trated on an excellent position, where he was prepared to accept 
the defensive battle for which he had been waiting for the last 
I month. It seemed likely at first that his wish might be granted, 
I for the French made a vigorous attack upon his left wing, almost 
before it had got settled down into its appointed ground. It 
would appear that General Clausel, who commanded the more 
i northerly of the two great columns in which the French army 
was advancing (while Marmont himself was with the other), 
thought that he saw his chance of carrying the heights above 
jCastrillo and turning the allied left, if he attacked at once, 
before the 4th Division had been granted time to array itself 
at leisure. Accordingly, without wasting time by sending to 
; ask permission from his chief, he directed a brigade of dragoons 
to outflank Cole's left by crossing the Guarena down-stream, 
while Brennier's division passed it at Castrillo and assailed the 
front of the 4th Division. Clausel's own division advanced in 
support of Brennier's. 

This move brought on very sharp fighting : the turning 
movement of the French dragoons was promptly met by Victor 
Alten's brigade [14th Light Dragoons, 1st Hussars K.G.L.], 
I whose squadrons had been watching the lower fords of the 
Guarena all day. Alten allowed the hostile cavalry to cross the 
| river and come up the slope, and then charged suddenly, in 
! echelon of squadrons, the left squadron of the 1st Hussars 
IK.G.L. leading 1 . The enemy had only begun to deploy when 
jhe was attacked, Alten's advance having been too rapid for 
I him. The two French regiments (15th and 25th Dragoons) were, 
i after a stiff fight, completely routed and driven downhill with 
'great loss, till they finally found refuge behind a half -battery 
land an infantry battalion which formed their supports. General 
Carrie, commanding the two regiments, was taken prisoner by 
a German hussar, having got cut off from his men in the flight. 
The French lost in all 8 officers and more than 150 men, 
of whom 94 were prisoners — mostly wounded. How sharp the 

1 Brotherton of the 14th L.D. says with the right echelon advanced 
(Hamilton's History of the 14th, p. 107), but I fancy that the German 
Hussars' version that the left echelon led is correct, as the right squadron 
of their regiment would have been in the middle of the brigade, not on 
a flank. See narrative in Schwertfeger, i. pp. 368-9. 


clash was may be seen from the fact that Alten's victorious 1 
brigade had not much fewer casualties — the 14th Light 1 
Dragoons lost 75 killed and wounded, the German hussars 60 V 
But no doubt some of these losses were suffered not in the 
cavalry combat, but a little later in the day, when Alten charged! 
the French infantry 2 . 

While this lively fight was in progress on the flank, Brennier's' 
division had crossed the Guarena in a mass, and on a very short 
front, apparently in three columns of regiments, battalion; 
behind battalion. They were ascending the lower slopes below 
Cole's position, when Wellington, who was present here in 
person, suddenly took the offensive against them, sending 1 
W. Anson's brigade (3/27th and l/40th) against them in line. 1 
with Stubbs's Portuguese (11th and 23rd regiments) supporting: 
in columns of quarter distance. The French division halted 
apparently with the intention of deploying — but there was no 
time for this. The line of Anson's brigade enveloped both the 
hostile flanks with its superior frontage, and opened fire : aftei 
a short resistance the French gave way in great disorder, anc| 
streamed down to the Guarena. As they fled Alten let loos< 
part of his brigade against their flank : the horsemen rode ii 
deep among the fugitives, and cut off 6 officers and 240 men a| 
prisoners. Clausel had to bring up a regiment of his owi 
division to cover the broken troops as they repassed the river ; i 
suffered severely from Cole's artillery, losing 6 officers killed an* 
wounded, and many men 3 . 

The attempt to take liberties with Wellington's army, whei 
it had assumed the defensive on favourable ground, had thu 
failed in the most lamentable style, and with very heavy loss- 
at least 700 men had been killed, wounded, or taken in Mai 
mont's army that day, and all but a few scores belonged to th| 
four infantry and two cavalry regiments which Clausel sent t 

1 These are the official returns. The regimental histories give only 4 
and 56 respectively. 

Martinien's lists show six casualties in officers in the two French reg 
ments, and two more were taken prisoners, General Carrie and a lieutenai 
of the 25th Dragoons. 

2 Brotherton says that the first two squadrons which charged the Frenc 
dragoons made no impression, and that it was the impact of the third, It! 
by himself, which broke them. 8 This was the 25th Leger. 


1 attack the heights by Castrillo \ The corresponding British 
loss that day was 525, including about 50 stragglers taken 
i prisoners during the retreat from the Trabancos to the Guarena, 
because they had fallen behind their regiments — foot-sore 
infantry, or troopers whose horses had been shot. The cavalry, 
which had so successfully covered the long march across the 
open, had a certain amount of casualties, but the only units 
! that had suffered heavily were the four regiments — horse and 
foot — that dealt with Clausel's attack, who lost 276 men between 

Wellington must have felt much disappointment at seeing 

Clausel's offensive move at Castrillo unsupported by the rest 

, of the French divisions, who were lining the farther bank of 

the Guarena parallel with the whole of his front. But Marmont, 

: unlike his venturesome subordinate, nourished no illusions 

about the advisability of attacking a British army in position. 

j He made no move in the afternoon ; in his memoirs he points 

; out that the infantry was absolutely exhausted, having been 

continuously on the march for three days and one night. 

This day had been a disappointing one for the French marshal 
also. He had failed to cut off Wellington's two detached 
divisions, so that all the advantage which he had obtained by his 
: marches and countermarches between Toro and Tordesillas was 
! now exhausted. The allied army had succeeded in concentrating, 
i and was now drawn up in his front, covering Salamanca and 
its own line of communications in a very tenable position. 
| Napier truly remarks that, since the attempt to isolate and 
j destroy Cotton's detachment had miscarried, Marmont had 
gained no more by his elaborate feint and forced marches than 
; he would have obtained by continuing his original advance 
: across Toro bridge on the 16th. He had got the whole Anglo- 
Portuguese army arrayed in a defensive position in front of 
| him, on the line of the Guarena, instead of somewhere in the 
neighbourhood of Fuente Sauco, a few/niles farther east. 

1 The exact figures, save for officers, are as usual missing. But Mar- 
tinien's invaluable lists show that of 41 French officers killed, wounded, or 
taken that day, 35 belonged to the four infantry regiments (17th and 25th 
Leger, 22nd and 65th Line) and the two cavalry regiments (15th and 25th 
Dragoons) which fought at Castrillo. 


On the morning of the 19th July it seemed as if a ne 
deadlock was to bring the campaign to a standstill, for th 
two armies continued to face each other across the Guarena 
Wellington hoping rather than expecting to be attacke 
Marmont looking in vain for a weak point between Castrillo an 
Vallesa, where it would be worth while to try a forward thrus 
While he was reconnoitring, his weary infantry got a muc 
needed rest. At about four o'clock in the afternoon, however, 
the whole French army was seen falling into column, and 
presently edged off southward till it lay between Tarazona and 
Cantalapiedra. Wellington thereupon made a corresponding 
movement, evacuating Castrillo to the north, and extending his 
line of battle beyond Vallesa to the south. There was a little 
distant cannonading across the valley of the Guarena, and 
some of the shells set fire to the vast fields of ripe wheat which 
covered the whole country-side in this region. The conflagration 
went rolling on for a long way across the plain, leaving a trail of 
smoke behind. 

The situation on this evening had nothing decisive about it. 
It was clear that neither side intended to fight save at an 
advantage. Marmont had shown himself more cautious than 
had been expected. Wellington had at this moment every 
motive for risking nothing, unless the enemy proved more 
obliging than he had shown himself hitherto. He had reasons 
for self-restraint at this moment of which his adversary knew 
nothing. The first was that he was aware (from intercepted 
dispatches) of King Joseph's intention to march from Madrid 
to join the Army of Portugal : with a possible 15,000 men 
about to appear on his flank, he must look to the future with 
care. The second was that he had received a few days before 
the untoward news that Lord William Bentinck's long-promised 
expedition to Catalonia might not ever take place. The 
Commander-in-Chief in Sicily wrote that he had found new 
opportunities in Italy, which it might be his duty to seize. 
His troops had been embarked, but they were not to be expected 
for the present off the coast of Spain. This was a disheartening 
piece of intelligence : Wellington had been told to count upon 
this support both by Bentinck himself and by the Home 
Government. If it should fail, Marshal Suchet, left undisturbed 


by this diversion, might send considerable reinforcements to 
Madrid \ 

As a matter of fact he did not — being, like Soult, a general of 
much too self-centred a type of mind to help a neighbour if he 
could avoid it. Only one regiment of the Valencian army ever 
got to Madrid, and that came too late for King Joseph's purpose. 
But so far as Wellington could guess on July 19, it was quite 
possible that Suchet might find 10,000 men, to add to the 
disposable 15,000 of the Army of the Centre. 

There was also the possibility that D'Erlon, obeying the 
orders which King Joseph kept sending to him, might make 
up his mind to cross the Guadiana and Tagus, and come north 
by Arzobispo and Madrid. If so, Hill was to make a parallel 
march by Alcantara, and would certainly arrive many days 
before D'Erlon. This was a mere possibility ; there were good 
reasons for holding that Soult might forbid any such move ; 
and till D'Erlon started northward, Hill must remain behind to 
contain him. The problem was not pressing : it could not 
develop for many days 2 . 

On the other hand there was news that the Galicians were 
at last on the move. Santocildes had been prevailed upon to 
leave a smaller force to besiege Astorga, and had come down 
with a second division to join Cabrera at Benavente. This 
force, advancing up the Douro valley, would find absolutely no 

i enemy in front of it, and must obviously disturb Marmont's 
operations, since it might be at the gates of Valladolid, his base 

i and storehouse, in a few days. He would then be forced to 
detach a division or so to save his depots, and he could not spare 
even a brigade if he wished to continue on the offensive. Certain 
intelligence that there was not a Frenchman left behind on the 
Douro, save the trifling garrisons of Toro, Zamora, and Torde- 
sillas, had been brought in by General D' Urban. That officer, 
after conducting a very daring exploration round the rear of 
Marmont's army, almost to the gates of Valladolid, had recrossed 
the Douro by Wellington's orders at the ford of Fresno de 

For dismay expressed by Wellington at this news see dispatches to 
Henry Wellesley dated Rueda, July 15, and to Lord Bathurst (Dispatches, 
ix. pp. 285 and 287). 
2 See Wellington to Hill, Dispatches, ix. p. 290. 


Ribera, and fell in upon the left flank of the allied army near 
Fuente Sauco on, July 18th \ For the rest of the campaign 
his 700 sabres were at Wellington's disposal 2 . His report 
showed that Marmont's rear was absolutely undefended, and 
that the Galicians could march up the Douro, if desired, without 
finding any opponents : it would be perfectly possible for them 
to cut all Marmont's communications with Valladolid and 
Burgos, without being in any danger unless the Marshal 
detached men against them. 

The 20th of July proved to be a most interesting day of man- 
oeuvring, but still brought no decisive results. Early in the 
morning the whole French army was seen in march, with its head 
pointing southward, continuing the movement that it had begun 
on the previous day. Marmont had made up his mind to proceed 
with the hitherto unsuccessful scheme for turning his adversary's 
right wing 3 , in the hope of either cutting him off from his 
communication with Salamanca, or of catching him with his 
army strung out on too long a line from continuous and rapid 
movement. The character of this day's march differed from 
that of the 19th, because the single well-marked Guarena 
valley ceased after a time to separate the two hostile armies. 
That little river is formed by three tributaries which meet 
at and above the village of El Olmo : each of them is a paltry 
brook, and their courses lie along trifling irregularities of the 
broad tableland from which they descend. It is only after their 
junction that they flow in a deep well-marked valley, and 
form a real military obstacle. Of the three brooks, that which 
keeps the name of Guarena lies most to the east : up its right 
bank and towards its source Marmont's march was directed. 
Wellington's parallel movement southward, on the other hand, 

1 Not July 17th, as Napier says. D'Urban's diary proves that h< 
recrossed the Douro on the 18th. 

a He left one squadron near Zamora, to serve as covering cavalry foi 
Silveira's militia, who remained waiting for Santocildes's advance, whicl 
they were to observe and support. His force was therefore reduced t< 
700 men. 

3 He adds in his Mimoires, iv. pp. 251-2, that if he had not succeeded iij 
getting ahead of Wellington's van, he had a counter-project of trying t< 
get round his rear, but the British marched so exactly parallel with hin 
that he got no chance of this. 


was directed along the left bank of the Poreda, the middle 
brook of the three. Between them there was at first a narrow 
triangular plateau, on which neither party trespassed save 
with cavalry scouts. 

After a few miles of marching Marmont ordered his advanced 
guard to cross the Guarena, which they could do with ease, no 
British being near, save a few cavalry vedettes. He then 
turned the head of his column south-westward, instead of 
keeping to his original direction due south. Having crossed the 
Guarena he came in sight of the British column marching on 
the other side of the Poreda brook from Vallesa. The move- 
ments of the two armies tended to converge, the point on which 
both were moving being the village of Cantalpino. It seemed 
likely that the heads of the marching columns must collide, 
and that a combat, if not a general action, would ensue. Each 
army was marching in an order that could be converted into 
a battle line by simply facing the men to right or to left respec- 
tively. Wellington had his troops in three parallel columns, the 
first one, that nearest to the French, being composed of the 
1st, 4th, 5th, and Light Divisions, the second, which would 
have formed the supporting line if the army had fronted and 
gone into action, contained the 6th and 7th and Pack's and 
Bradford's brigades : the 3rd Division and Espana's Spaniards 
formed a reserve, moving farthest from the enemy. The light 
cavalry were marching ahead of the column, the heavy cavalry 
and D'Urban's Portuguese brought up their rear. Marmont 
was clearly seen to be moving in a similar formation, of two 
columns each composed of four infantry divisions, with Curto's 
chasseurs ahead, and Boyer's dragoons at the tail of the line 
of march \ 

The day was warm but clouded, so that the sun did not shine 
with full July strength, or the long march which both armies 
carried out would have been brought to an end by exhaustion 
at a much earlier hour than was actually the case. As the 
long morning wore on, the two hostile forces gradually grew 
closer to each other, owing to the new westward turn which 

1 Marmont describes the formation (Memoires, iv. p. 252) as ' gauche en 
tete, par peloton, a distance entiere : les deux lignes pouvaient etre formees 
en un instant par d droite en bataille.' 


Marmont had given to his van. At last they were within long 
artillery range ; but for some time no shot was fired, neither 
party being willing to take the responsibility of attacking an 
enemy in perfect order and well closed up for battle. Either 
general could have brought on a fight, by simply fronting to 
flank, in ten minutes ; but neither did so. Marmont remarks in 
his Memoires that in his long military service he never, before 
or after, saw such a magnificent spectacle as this parallel march 
of two bodies of over 40,000 men each, at such close quarters. 
Both sides kept the most admirable order, no gaps occurred in 
either line, nor was the country one that offered advantage 
to either : it was very nearly flat, and the depression of the 
Poreda brook became at last so slight and invisible that it was 
crossed without being noticed. The ground, however, on which 
the French were moving was a little higher than that on which 
the allies marched \ 

The converging lines of advance at last almost touched each 
other at the village of Cantalpino : the light cavalry and the 
1st Division, at the head of Wellington's front (or eastern) 
column of march had just passed through it, when Marmont 
halted several batteries on a roll of the ground a few hundred 
yards off, and began to shell the leading battalions of the 
4th Division, which was following closely behind the 1st. 
Wellington ordered Cole not to halt and reply, nor to attack, 
but to avoid the village and the French fire by a slight westerly 
turn, to which the other divisions conformed, both those in 
the first and those in the second line 2 . This amounted to the 
refusing of battle, and many officers wondered that the challenge 
of Marmont had been refused : for the army was in perfect order 
for fighting, and in excellent spirits. But Wellington was taking 
no risks that day. 

The slight swerve from the direct southerly direction at 
Cantalpino made by the allied army, distinctly helped Marmont's 
plan for turning its right, since by drawing back from its 
original line of movement it allowed the enemy to push still 

1 There is an excellent description of the parallel march in Leith Hay, 
ii. pp. 38-40, as well as in Napier. 

2 This swerve and its consequence are best stated in Vere's Marches of the 
4th Division, p. 30. 


farther westward than his original line of march had indicated. 
This meant that he was gradually getting south of Wellington's 
vanguard, and would, if not checked, ultimately arrive at the 
Tormes river, near the fords of Huerta, from which he would 
have been edged off, if both armies had continued in their 
original direction. During the early afternoon the parallel 
move continued, with a little skirmishing between cavalry 
vedettes, and an occasional outbreak of artillery fire, but no 
further developments. The baggage in the English rear began 
to trail behind somewhat, owing to the long continuance of the 
forced marching, and D'Urban's Portuguese, who shepherded 
the stragglers, had great difficulty in keeping them on the 
move. A few score sick and foot-sore men, and some exhausted 
sumpter-beasts, fell behind altog